France, 2009, 115 minutes
Sun, Apr 25 / 12:30 / Kabuki / COCO25K
Mon, Apr 26 / 9:15 / Kabuki / COCO26K
With sublime music, sumptuous sets and moody intensity, Jan Kounen’s dual biopic captures the beauty and unease of 1920s Paris, evoking a pivotal era of upheaval in Western culture in two of its most famous protagonists. The dark horror of WWI and the rise of Modernism coincide with a great shift in consciousness reflected in the film’s epic opening scene: the 1913 Paris debut of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Kounen’s painstaking recreation of this earthquake in the history of the arts is breathtaking. The night that changed the future of music unfolds as a riot between a minority of ardent Stravinsky supporters and the enraged, vocal majority who refuse to let the ballet continue. While the score was ultimately redeemed, Stravinsky’s fortunes took a tumble until seven years later, when Chanel put him and his family up at her majestic villa. Here Stravinsky’s music resounds with newfound passion as his unlikely relationship with Chanel develops. Anna Mouglalis is sharp, charismatic and unflappable as Coco Chanel, while hinting at a vulnerable core. Mads Mikkelsen’s Stravinsky is a quiet, brooding genius whose world-changing music arises despite a cordial Old World personal manner. Ironically, the composer who epitomizes modernism struggles to comprehend the woman who most reflects its qualities. But in the drama that ensues, all sacrifice the personal to a larger purpose—the music itself. Transcending enormous personalities is the forward march of culture, that quality of civilization that absorbs its sufferings and transforms them into a deeper, wiser vision.