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Coco Avant Chanel

Nothing goes out of fashion so quickly than fashion itself.  If flares and shoulder pads are identified with their respective eras, it’s the timeless elegance of other garments which enhance their ability to overcome passing fads.  Chanel is one of the most famous clothing labels with a sophisticated style allowing for comfort whilst looking very chic.  Coco Avant Chanel explores the woman behind a moniker that has caused much excitement amongst eager fashionistas.
Abandoned at an orphanage by her father, Gabrielle (Audrey Tautou) and her sister Adrienne (Marie Gillain) had a patchy start in life.  Eventually performing ditties in late night cabaret, a chance meeting with rich soldier Etienne (Benoit Poelvoorde) forever changed her.  Taken in by this wealthy carouser, who nicknames her Coco, she becomes drawn into his aimlessly bourgeoisie existence.  Upon meeting one of his acquaintances, Arthur (Allessandro Novola), her outlook is opened to the possibilities of love and of her passion in developing a new form of attire bringing fresh luxurious grace to an increasingly antiquated society.
Like its American contemporaries, this French film seems happy in focussing on the ‘tragedy aspect’.  Biographies are rife with them and apparently must have its required quota of sadness in order for the viewer to engage with its subject.  Coco Avant Chanel does have its fair share of misery, and it is these scenes which detract from what should be an interesting story.  Chanel’s gift for observing clothing tastes and ensuring each fabric complimented the wearer is more fascinating than it sounds, although sadly the film-makers seem intent on crafting a very beige romantic drama. 
The sole purpose of any biography is to uncover the enigma of a person so that audiences can be enlightened by its end.  Unfortunately Chanel remains a mystery, with even some of the cast unable to convey the passions driving their roles.  Because of this, the overall film feels somewhat lifeless despite some good insights into how she grew out of her shell and defied convention by creating her own unique approach.  Moments of this type give genuine weight to material frequently floundering under its unfocussed narrative.  The music score and scenery are a bonus however, showing how the surrounds also played their part in forming an icon.
Had the writers examined the lasting legacy of its subject perhaps the story would have been more intriguing.  Whilst having its moments, Coco Avant Chanel seems disappointingly bereft of the charm and poise so often associated with the creations bearing her name. 
Rating out of 10:  5

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