Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Anne Fontaine: Coco avant Chanel

Next, we move from one global innovator (Genghis Khan) to another, Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, 1883-1971), as portrayed efficiently by Audrey Tautou in Anne Fontaine's Coco avant Chanel / Coco Before Chanel (2009). 

It's a great story, following Chanel, along with her sister Adrienne, from their stint as orphans (actually, their father had sent them there and then departed from their lives) under guidance of Catholic nuns at the Aubazine monastery in south central France, to their lives among the gentry and, finally, in Paris. We see Coco expanding her repertoire as opportunties arise. Chanel's actual life story is so epic that director Fontaine wisely focuses on key points and themes, telescoping as necessary. It works -- I thoroughly enjoyed Coco avant Chanel.

Chanel's impact on clothing through couture was revolutionary. She moved avant elements of the mainstream away from heavy, restrictive (and extraordinarily ugly) Victorian garb into crisp-looking, more comfortable (and sometimes androgynous) styles that are as impressive in 2011 as they were in 1921 or 1931. Her use of black was genius -- but also reflected (originally) a mourning time in the wake of the massive losses of the Great War of 1914-1918 and the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919 or also, as Coco avant Chanel suggests, after the death of Boy Capel, her flame. The little black dress made its formal appearance in the 1920s and has remained in play ever since.

Today's Rune: Harvest.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Genghis Khan and Coco Chanel? Now there's an interesting juxtaposition.