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MOVIE REVIEW: Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky

Speculation abounds in this mildly entertaining bio-pic

Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.
Rates a C-.

Courtesy photo

I love bio-pics about people I know nothing about. All the stories are fresh and interesting.

When it comes to classical music, the amount of CDs I own can be counted on both hands. None of those are Stravinsky.

For most of the movie, I was entertained. I thought the opening sequence involving a piece of his music ("The Rite of Spring") in 1913 that isn’t well received, was interesting but went on way too long.

Igor Stravinsky (Is anyone named Igor anymore? Haven’t heard that name since Young Frankenstein) meets Coco Chanel at a party, and they quickly move in together. It’s not exactly what it sounds like. He has his

sick wife and kids in tow. An affair quickly occurs, and everyone in the house is aware of it.

Here’s where my problem with the film lies. Nobody is sure they even had an affair. And, this movie speculates on that, as well as her profound influence in his compositions. They also hint that one piece he wrote, that he put “Five” on the top of, is how she got the name for Chanel No. 5 (as she was working on a perfume for the first time).

If you start writing fiction based on real people, well hell, the possibilities are endless. Why not have Tchoikovsky walk in for a three way? You could say he wrote Nutcracker based on that.

I think about one line in the movie where Stravinsky is playing something basic on the Steinway, and he asks Chanel to sing. She says “I can’t. I sound like a crow.” Yet in real life, she was a cabaret singer early in her career.

And Stravinsky had some real life stories that would’ve made for a more interesting film. Like piano player Jerry Lee Lewis, he married his cousin. Oh, here’s another true story I wouldn’t mind seeing made into a film – in his 80s, he was a mentor and piano teacher to Warren Zevon. How cool is that?

Chanel has had a few films made on her life. I think her being close with Walter Kutschmann, who murdered thousands of Poland’s Jews (she paid for his funeral), had a big effect on her lack of success in the mid-50s in Paris (the Brits and Americans didn’t seem to mind).

She was also rumored to have had an affair with Hans Gunther von Dincklage (that last name rivals Butkus). He was a German officer and Nazi spy, and he pulled some strings for her.

I’m thinking – The Mistress/The Seamstress – could’ve been a great title for a biopic on her that deals with fact and not fiction.

Let’s get back to reviewing the movie and not the possibilities.

The music was obviously fantastic. The wardrobes will probably be up for Oscars.

At times, the director went for an arty approach that didn’t always work. One involves Stravinsky’s face submerging into a tub of water.

I read that one critic called this movie a “yawn fest.” I certainly wasn’t bored, but after two hours I wondered what the point of such a long movie was.

I’m giving this film a C minor.