Coco Avant Chanel

A rather untimely review, I am well aware that if I am watching this on DVD in Australia, most of the rest of the world has already seen it. I don’t particularly care. I’m also not one for current movies. I was raised rather outside the popular culture and now that I am past the “stupid age” I think popular culture can go fandango itself. I do like mid-century movies, and especially silent films, but we won’t venture into that territory for now.


Absolutely Wow capital W, and how.

First, I ought to mention that since a college roomie introduced me to Amelie, I am desperately in love with Audrey Tatou and watch anything if her presence recommends it. I would happily watch her read the phone book.

Secondly, I am hopelessly addicted to period movies.

Thirdly, anything about sewing or design or fashion will hold my attention. Unless it is mitigated by awful, vacuous personalities.

And finally, I am not necessarily one who ascribes to the idea that fashion is somehow a form of high art. I think it is the purest form of art, and the most common for we live in the clothes that we wear.

I admire the essence of the movie, and I like the picturesque cinematography. Especially the scene when the Boy has her drive his new racing car on the snowy streets of Parie (i.e., Paris. Ever and anon I will write Parie because despite much husbandly eye-rolling, I will pronounce proper nouns as they are intended). Gasp-worthy shot there. This pic inspires me to delve much deeper into Chanel biographies, which I am sure could fill a library. I admit to being quite ignorant up to this point. I’m so inspired. She had nothing, she came from worse than nothing, but by imposing herself on reality rather than allowing reality to be imposed on her, she created a legacy.

That’s the key to why I am so besotted. She kept true to her own aesthetic, her own ideas and the masses praise her for it. To this day. Was she winsome, warm, sweet, outgoing? No. Was she awful? No. There is the shot of her standing alone in the middle of the night in the garden, dark hair flowing, nightgown glowing white and that shot is unmitigated shock and despair. Emotional isolation. Wounded pride. I understand that on a very basic level. This shot gives the same feel:

I think I might attempt learning to do a screenshot so I can post the nightgown scene, a google search turning up nothing.

The last fifteen or so minutes especially struck a chord with me. I watched it four times. You can see her playing with fabrics, tearing them so they are on grain, stretching, trimming, draping. She understands the fabrics with the tips of her fingers. I understand that too. So often I find myself immersed in fibres to escape stress. If you pour your stress, your heartache and your pain into your work you find an outlet for your energy and have a beautiful finished product.  Many artists must become great this way.

I sew because it is one thing in my life that I can control without question. If I can’t control it, I learn how to. I impose my will on the fabrics I manipulate. Even Katherine, whom I despise, is technically perfect. I find peace in that. The rest of my life can go to hell in a hand basket, but I can and will double topstitch edges a precise 1/8″ apart.

When Chanel watches all the models wearing the fruits of her labors, the children of her mind… Wow. Her face never changes while she flashes back to her younger, rawer, formative years. I understand that, too. You dwell in the present because it is an unmitigated fact of reality. At the same time you see yourself from the inside as the product of your experiences, unable or unwilling to escape the past. Wow.

In the last fifteen minutes, I challenge you to place an exact date on her clothing. Chanel exists beyond decades. That last scene could have been 1971 as easily as 1938. Her style transcends fashion, and so is transcendent.

I say bravo to the film makers.

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