Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
The Making Of The West Wing
Subscribe To Empire Today
Save money and get 12 issues for only £25
London Film Festival 2014
Our round-up of the galas, films and interviews
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Audrey Tautou
Alessandro Nivola
Benoit Poelvoorde.
Directors
Anne Fontaine.
Screenwriters
Anne Fontaine.
Running Time
110 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Overnighters, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Fury
3 Star Empire Rating
Way He Looks, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Serena
2 Star Empire Rating
Book Of Life, The
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
Nightcrawler
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Coco Before Chanel
It's just so pre-war...


submit to reddit


Plot
The story of how tragic ‘orphan’ Gabrielle Chanel (Tautou), abandoned by her father on the death of her mother, worked her way up through society’s strata to become ‘Coco’, the fashion world’s most famous figure, falling for English playboy Boy Capel (Nivola) along the way.


Review
Coco Before Chanel
Browse more images »
There are few names more iconic than Chanel, yet few think of the word as anything other than a fashion brand. With Coco Avant Chanel, director-screenwriter Anne Fontaine portrays how Gabrielle Chanel, dispatched, along with her sister, to an orphanage on the death of her mother, transformed herself from lowly would-be orphan to the epitome of style and class, via the salons and boudoirs of the Belle Époque.

Fontaine’s thesis appears to be that it is Coco’s early abandonment by her father that drives her to success, the young Gabrielle seen patiently waiting at the orphanage gates for the parent who never comes. It’s not an especially original insight — history’s key female figures, from Elizabeth I to Madonna, are typically portrayed as both beset and driven by daddy issues. Still, Fontaine’s screenplay is more thoughtful than those looking for a classier Sex And The City might have expected, toying with questions of loss, identity, ambition and compromise.

Part of the film’s success lies in the fact that while on paper it’s a tale of triumph, its mood is sombre. Audrey Tautou’s Chanel is a complex figure, emotionally broken at an early age, yet impish, daring, challenging and very much her own woman, even as her relationships repeatedly leave her short-changed. How wonderful sex is, she tells her sister Adrienne (Marie Gillain), as they begin bedhopping their way into the aristocratic circles they so wish to join. It’s just a pity it has to involve men.

Nevertheless, Fontaine acknowledges that it is two key men — father figure and ‘patron’ Étienne Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde) and the English true love who shattered her already damaged heart, Boy Capel (Alessandro Nivola) — that give her the support and leverage to fulfil her ambition, first as a milliner to the upper classes, and later as the fashion designer par excellence we all know. Poelvoorde and Nivola work hard with underwritten roles, possibly necessarily so, their almost emblematic function keeping Chanel front and centre.

Shot with an elegance befitting of the subject and with a sartorial pay-off that will thrill dedicated fashionistas, Fontaine’s film is an attractive tribute to one of fashion’s more mysterious figures.


Verdict
More a snapshot of a moment than conventional biography, and while less complex than it might want to be, still a quietly thoughtful look at one of the 20th century’s most influential characters.


Reviewed by Liz Beardsworth


Related Reviews
Sounds
Coco Before Chanel
 

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Coco Before Chanel
Empire Star Rating

A Fascinating Film.

Coco Before Chanel is a film for anyone who adores fasion must see, it's the story of how she grew from a orphan to becoming the most famous fasion designer. While her life goes on, she goes through father figures, fitting into society and falling in love with a English man. This is very moving and fascinating, for someone who doesn't care much about fasion, it was instanly guled to this film and enjoyed it very much. The pefomances are excellent, they truely bring out your emotions during the r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 15:31, 06 December 2009 | Report This Post


Pointless, and very very reserved, Chanel and Tautu deserve much much better ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by omarx at 00:14, 18 August 2009 | Report This Post


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Empire Podcast: David Ayer Talks Fury
Plus Steve Carell talks Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Trailer Reaction
We dive under the hood of Whedon's sequel teaser

10 Of The Most Impressive In-Universe Movie Tie-In Websites
From Blair Witch to Days Of Future Past, expand your cinematic horizons online

The 12 Apps Every Film Fan Needs On Their Smartphone
The handheld essentials to enhance your movie life

Empire Meets Jason Bateman And Tina Fey
The stars of This Is Where I Leave You hang out

The Scariest Film Of The Year? Jennifer Kent On The Babadook
The director talks us through her terrifying new film

10 Horror Spin-Offs We Want To See
After Annabelle, what other supporting characters deserve their own film?

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)