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
The Perfect Night In
Great Movies From Warner Bros.
Subscribe To Empire
Sign up now and save up to 63%
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
Miss Julie
2 Star Empire Rating
Second Mother, The
4 Star Empire Rating
No Escape
2 Star Empire Rating
Ricki And The Flash
2 Star Empire Rating
Dope
4 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
Wes Craven: Film By Film
Empire celebrates the late, great horror director

My Movie Life: Andrew Haigh
The 45 Years director on the movies that made him

Vanity Projects: The Musical Edition
A dozen more hits and misses from the rock and pop world

Inside The Martian: Empire Meets NASA
Prepare to science the shit out of it...

Deadpool: A Complete History
Empire's guide to The Merc With A Mouth, in comics and on screen

Spectre – Everything You Need To Know
Empire's essential briefing on James Bond's 24th outing

The N.W.A-Team
Empire visits the set of Straight Outta Compton

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
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)