“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” opens with the fierce and furious premiere of the Russian composer’s “The Rite of Spring” in a Paris concert hall in 1913.
The audience’s animated response does not stop at catcalls and walkouts: The muscular ballet, pulsing with dissonance, literally starts a riot.
Director Jan Kounen stages and shoots this momentous event with sweep and vigor. It’s an extraordinary beginning, and while the rest of the film is decidedly less so, it’s difficult not to be captivated by the storm-tossed romance that follows – and by the lush elegance surrounding it all.
Starring Anna Mouglalis as the chic designer (and formidable businesswoman) and Mads Mikkelsen as the inward, intense musical genius, “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” is a series of beautiful snapshots of their years-long liaison, an affair that had its roots at that 1913 performance she attended.
In 1920, after the World War, Chanel meets Stravinsky and soon is offering her country manor for the impoverished composer, his wife and children to live in.
But this is an act less of charity than of selfishness and desire; she can keep Stravinsky close, watch him work, and take him to bed (or in the woods, or wherever else she likes). It isn’t long before Stravinsky’s wife, Catherine (Elena Morozova), realizes what’s going on. The fissure between the couple, and the effect of Stravinsky’s reckless obsession on the children, are palpable.
Mouglalis offers a cold, steely version of the French fashion icon, in marked contrast to Audrey Tautou’s “Coco Before Chanel.” Mikkelsen (the villain in the last Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”) offers a Stravinsky who is rumpled, raging, full of passion.
And “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” offers two hours of luxury and loveliness, music and art, and a bit of sexually charged madness, too.