3/25/10

Paris in film: Coco before Chanel


I was drawn to Coco Before Chanel  for three reasons: 1) The story of an artist 2) France 3) Audrey Tautou (who I've been a helpless fan of since Amelie).

It is not the sort of film that smacks you over the head.  It's a very subtle, sophisticated, glide. I can't say I adored it, and yet, I appreciate it's uniqueness, it's truthfulness.  Her laissez-faire attitude towards using men was pretty disgusting to me and Coco is an odd character -- mysterious, a little abrupt, and for much of the film, not very happy. It wasn't exactly your "feel good" film, but some things resonated with me, like a quiet low bass note, echoing in my soul. I didn't know much about the movie or Coco Chanel beforehand. I'd say that this was likely only better for me taking the movie in as a simple work of art.

This movie wasn't as much about Paris, but about longing to be in Paris (something I understand), and Coco's long, winding road to finally arrive there. For Coco, Paris is a symbol of  possibility, of prosperity, of freedom, of the good life. When Coco finally makes her way to Paris, we get glimpses of a glamorous Paris in the 1920s - Coco's boutique, a chic restaurant, a snowy night, a theater.


I was intrigued by Coco's unique style and vision.  I lean towards femininity personally, but Coco was playing with menswear and boyish styles and androgyny at a time when that was anything but stylish.  I liked stepping outside of myself and taking in her aesthetic and trying to appreciate it.

In the film, you get to see her slowly, gradually, step by step develop her own style. You see her experiment, and little by little discover these moments of style that lead her to her aesthetic.  She takes a trip to the beach and she sees fishermen dressed in sailor-striped shirts.  Soon, she's wearing a sailor-striped shirt when no one else is.


You could say this was a story of love lost.  You could say this was a story of an artist's journey.  You could say it's the story of a working woman who built an empire, at a time when women were not doing such things. You could say this was a rags to riches story. But I think it's the story of a woman standing up and making the best she can out of life when she didn't get her first choice.  And that is what resonated with me on a personal level...

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