Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
100 Greatest Characters
Your all-time favourite heroes and villains
Subscribe To Empire
Sign up now and save 44%
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
Vacation
2 Star Empire Rating
Strange Magic
2 Star Empire Rating
Looking For Love
3 Star Empire Rating
Pressure
3 Star Empire Rating
Misery Loves Comedy
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Man With A Movie Camera
5 Star Empire Rating
Salt Of The Earth, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Song Of The Sea
5 Star Empire Rating
Look Of Silence, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Mad Max: Fury Road
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



CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Read Empire's official verdict

Empire Meets Joely Richardson
On Maggie, Arnie and Event Horizon

Sven Hansen-Løve Talks Eden
The house DJ on France’s answer to 24 Hour Party People

100 Greatest Movie Characters
The complete list of your all-time favourite heroes and villains

Vote Now For Your Favourite TV Shows
Pick your top five - if you can...

David O. Russell Talks Through First Joy Trailer
The writer/director breaks down the Jennifer Lawrence Oscar hopeful

Paul Rudd Is Awesome
Being awesome: from Clueless to Ant-Man

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month!

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 67%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  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)