Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman Revealed
The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
Guardians Of The Galaxy Review
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Promotion: Destiny Awaits
Win a limited edition PS4 and a copy of Destiny
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
Lilting
4 Star Empire Rating
Wakolda
3 Star Empire Rating
Moebius
4 Star Empire Rating
All This Mayhem
3 Star Empire Rating
Guardians Of The Galaxy
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
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
Michel Gondry Talks Mood Indigo
Gondry on Bjork, erections and Mark Ruffalo in his pants

Everything You Need To Know About The Dragonriders Of Pern
The lowdown on Warner Bros. new fantasy sci-fi

A Pocket Guide To Game Of Thrones’ New Cast Members
Know your Doran Martell from your Nym Sand

Empire's The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies Covers Are Here
Bard The Bowman or Smaug The Magnificent?

Directors Special: Peter Hyams Goes Film-By-Film
The veteran director on Timecop, Outland, 2010, Enemies Closer and more

The 10 Biggest Stories Of Comic-Con 2014
The shocks to emerge from this year's geek-fest. Avengers! Max! Mann!

Models Inc.: The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
How the likes of Batman, Superman and Luke Skywalker become collectible figures

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
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  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)