Today I saw Coco Before Chanel, the biopic on Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel prior to her success. In some ways, I was a little afraid this might echo La Vie en Rose. While born thirty years apart, the stories of Edith Piaf and Coco Chanel are similar in many ways – their ascent from poverty, abandonment by their parents, parts of the post-success lives everyone would rather forget, acute loneliness – and I was afraid the two films would mine those similarities. Coco Before Chanel, however, feels more like a story about love and blossoming creativity than the stricter biopic of La Vie en Rose.
My favorite thing about Coco is that the film does a fabulous job of charting the development of Coco’s designs and inspirations, as well as the designer’s keen sense of observation. Often one feels that one is seeing the movie through Coco’s eyes, particularly when she observes the nuns in her convent or, later, the parties in which she does not always feels she belongs.
I was intrigued by the nondescript foreign accent of the actor that portrays Coco’s longtime lover Arthur “Boy” Capel (Alessandro Nivola). It did not sound like a British person speaking French to me, but it also did not particularly sound like an Italian person speaking French either. Also, there is a certain stiffness about Boy Capel that could fit with his character, but also struck me as odd. Turns out that Alessandro Nivola did not exactly speak French prior to landing the role in the movie and, in this interview, mentions that he was incredibly tense the first two months of filming. Interestingly, in addition to learning French, he had to learn to ride horses, play polo, ballroom dance and perfect his existing piano knowledge to play very complicated piano. The movie is very much worth seeing, as it is incredibly beautiful and well-acted.
Photo from IMDB photo gallery.
General Disclosures & Disclaimers