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Before she became Coco, the world-famous fashion designer, Gabrielle Chanel (Audrey Tautou in a fiercely determined performance) struggled to make ends meet. After her mother's death, her father deposited her and her sister, Adrienne (Marie Gillain), at an orphanage, where they learned to sew (and where Chanel developed a taste for monochromatic ensembles). They went on to become cabaret singers, but when Adrienne runs off with a wealthy suitor, the newly christened Coco must go it alone until she meets gentleman farmer Étienne Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde). She lives comfortably at his chateau, but he refuses to take her out in public, so she puts her skills as a seamstress to good use and designs outfits for his lady friends, like Emilienne (Emmanuelle Devos), an actress. Chanel's situation improves further when British investor Arthur "Boy" Capel (Alessandro Nivola with an impeccable French accent) enters the scene. Her working-class origins present less of a problem with Capel, though the couple will have other issues with which to contend. In the meantime, he gives her the money to open her own Parisian studio, and the film ends with the tweed suit-clad Chanel of the popular imagination. Until that time, writer-director Anne Fontaine (The Girl from Monaco) presents a very different character, a woman who wasn't worldly or sophisticated, but who saw no reason why fashion--or "style," as she called it--should be complicated or uncomfortable. In transforming herself, Coco Chanel transformed an entire industry and, arguably, an entire gender.--Kathleen C. Fennessy


Stills from Coco Before Chanel (Click for larger image)
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CastAudrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde
DirectorAnne Fontaine
DVD Release Date:  February 16, 2010
Runtime:  105 minutes
Studio:  Sony Pictures Classics
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review by . October 20, 2009
Watch this movie for the beautiful scenes of French countryside, and for the drama of Coco Chanel's early life, but do not be misled by the preview, which gives you the most romantic scene in the movie and does not show how much misery is involved in the rest of the film.      What bothered me most about Audrey Tatou's performance was how waif-ish she was. Those hollow-eyed expressions. Those wistful glances. Her attitude seemed perfect for a waspish model, but not the leader …
review by . April 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
In a curious mixture of somber reality and breakout sentimentality, Anne Fontaine's biopic "Coco Before Chanel" showcases Audrey Tatou (Amélie) in an anti-gamin role as hardscrabble feminist Gabrielle Chanel, one of the great fashion innovators of the twentieth century. Fontaine's juxtaposing of the realities of an unmarried woman's life at the end of the Belle Epoque and the unemotional resignation and resentment of convention as displayed by Gabrielle (nicknamed Coco as she sings a bawdy ditty …
Quick Tip by . March 28, 2010
posted in Reel Overseas
I really enjoyed this film. It was very well-acted and at times quite sexy. As far as biopics go, this was great!
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Coco Before Chanel (2009)
Audrey Tatou as Coco Chanel
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