Saturday, September 12, 2009

Coco Before Chanel

When we arrived for tickets, the girl at the counter said, "Coco Before Chanel? I didn't think anyone was going to watch that."

She exaggerated: there were three other couples to watch this brilliant film, a vehicle for the talent and charm of Audrey Tautou (Amelie et al).

If you don't know anything about Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel - which we really didn't - you can appreciate this intelligent film in its own terms. It shows how a 12 year old girl, dumped in an orphanage by her apparently unfeeling father, can take life's opportunities to make herself a top couturier in the first decades of the twentieth century.

How did you do that in pre-first-world-war France? By latching on to powerful men and satisfying their whims, while leveraging what little freedom they grant you to discover and develop your true talents. In the process she has to submit to the aristocratic boor Etienne Balsan, and gets her heart broken by the sensitive though caddish Englishman Arthur 'Boy' Capel.

It's in French, with subtitles, but as usual you don't notice after a few minutes. Andover didn't know what a gem it was missing.