Thursday 17 Apr

Dustin Prinz - Eleven

Few musicians take the time to master their instrument in the way that Oklahoma City singer-songwriter Dustin Prinz has; he’s a guitar virtuoso in every sense of the word, and Eleven gives him the chance to show just how far he can push that skill.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss

Listening to Horse Thief’s previous release — the haphazardly melodramatic Grow Deep, Grow Wild — felt like a chore. Whatever potential the Oklahoma City folk-pop act demonstrated on the EP was obscured behind a formulaic, contrived and ultimately hollow cloud. But it at least offered a glimmer of promise for a band consisting of, frankly, five pretty talented dudes. Critics saw it; the band’s management saw it; its current label, Bella Union, saw it; and its increasingly fervid fan base saw it.
04/08/2014 | Comments 0

Colourmusic — May You Marry Rich

There’s always a sense of danger when debuting songs in a live setting and playing them well. Without having heard the studio versions, expectations are set according to the live incarnations. But capturing the breadth of free-flowing atmosphere and sheer volume on a disc, vinyl or digital file isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially for a band as vociferous as Colourmusic.
04/01/2014 | Comments 0

Em and the MotherSuperiors — Churches into Theaters

As titles go, Churches into Theaters is an apt descriptor for the debut album from Oklahoma City rockers Em and the MotherSuperiors. It’s a reverential record, one that shares the gospel of classic rock, blues and soul but embraces the need to refashion it for modern times, channeling The Dead Weather, Grace Potter and Cage the Elephant along the way.
03/25/2014 | Comments 0

Rachel Brashear — Revolution

Rachel Brashear’s second EP, Revolution, starts with a kick to the shins.
03/18/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Biopic follows struggle of a...

Biopic follows struggle of a fashion icon in 'Coco Before Chanel'

Mike Robertson November 19th, 2009

A biopic is kind of like reality TV, but with people you're actually interested in. It generally involves taking a famous person's biography, cutting out some of the boring stuff while ignoring ...


A biopic is kind of like reality TV, but with people you're actually interested in. It generally involves taking a famous person's biography, cutting out some of the boring stuff while ignoring other stuff that doesn't support the story you want to tell, and voila: a movie audiences will pay to see.

The film screens Friday and Saturday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

"Coco avant Chanel" " or "Coco Before Chanel" for those of us who don't know what "avant" means " is just such a biopic. It takes a selective, truncated look at Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel as she struggles through her young womanhood to transubstantiate herself into a 20th-century fashion icon.

We meet young Gabrielle in 1893, being dumped at a convent/orphanage at age 10 (newcomer Lisa Cohen) by her father. Prophetically, the nuns teach Gabrielle to work as a seamstress. Fifteen years later, Gabrielle (Audrey Tautou, "The Da Vinci Code") is working as a seamstress with her sister, Adrienne (Marie Gillain), in Moulin.

One night, while singing for change, they meet Etienne Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde), an aristocratic millionaire who's slumming in town while he fulfills his military obligations. He takes a liking to Gabrielle and begins calling her "Coco" after a song about a dog she sings with Adrienne.

After her sister takes up with a man and moves out, Coco seizes a chance and pays a visit to Balsan, who reluctantly lets her stay at his chateau outside Paris. There, Coco learns how to ride horses, hobnob with his rich friends and take up hat-making as a hobby.

By-and-by Englishman Arthur Capel (Alessandro Nivola, "The Eye") comes around on the party circuit, and Coco falls in love with him. Balsan, with whom she has been carrying on an affair of financial convenience, is mildly jealous.

Throughout, Coco spends a lot of time hunched in corners, chain-smoking and making snarky comments about the other women's dresses and big, feathered hats.

"Coco Before Chanel" bears a lot of similarities to the recent biopic about Amelia Earhart. Both movies are true to their periods, depicting strong women who swam against the tide of their times' gender expectations.

Both movies also feature insipid attempts to create dramatic love triangles that lack actual drama. The relationship between Capel, Chanel and Balsan is too congenial and civilized to warrant real tension. No one hits anyone else in the mouth, screams or even throws a cocktail against a wall. Balsan simply states his jealousy, and everyone moves on.

Still, "Coco" has more teeth than "Amelia." The superior character development makes the ending sadder, and Tautou has more je ne sais quoi than Hilary Swank, which is saying something.

However, the film fails to reveal anything fundamental about the importance of Chanel or her times. For one thing, the movie almost totally ignores World War I, which had to have affected everyone involved. For another, director Anne Fontaine (who co-wrote) decided to focus on Chanel's love life which, while somewhat entertaining, isn't that interesting. "Mike Robertson

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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