COCO (CHANEL) AND IGOR (STRAVINSKY)
We have all heard the expression “watching paint dry”; the implication derogatory, but what I would have sacrificed to watch a Delacroix, Courbet, Renoir, Picasso, Kline, Richter, Johns, Curran whose layers and layers of paint, encaustic, varnish took days and sometimes years to loose their liquidity, solidify and dry. Pure, unadulterated ecstasy!
So on a recent trip to Los Angeles I was taken by my most fascinating friend to view “Coco and Igor” and from the onset we felt gifted, privy, in awe of the intense beauty Jan Kounen, the director, painted for us; one of the most powerful partnerships between film and painting ever viewed, and the miracle of the experience is that we the viewer became the hand and eye of the artist envisioning and finalizing the creation.
Not being a fashion aficionado but having a few friends who have accomplished and consummated the ideal relationship between couture and individuality (L.E. G. S. P. B.C.J. First initials to protect the identity, of these pivotal archetypes).
I have tired of all the Coco hype over the last few years. But this film is great: Anna Mouglalis is magnificent as Coco Chanel; she captures the drive, ambition and courage it took to crusade and challenge a male- dominated world in the early twentieth century. Jan Kounen was dauntless in casting her in the role. She was the muse and model for Karl Lagerfeld (appointed head designer for Chanel in 1982). His choice was prophetic. No one could have worn with such grace and agility, the vintage, archival Chanel wardrobe, as grounded as her personality, she is angelic, pristine poetry in motion.
Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky is good as the tormented innovative composer whose scores for Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911) ignited his initial flirtation with fame and recognition.
The film revolves around a brief and passionate interlude in the lives of these two avant- garde individuals. Commencing in 1913 with the debut in Paris of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) choreographed by Nijinsky, performed by the Ballet Russe. This scene is worth the price of admission and should be seen by all Stravinsky lovers; it is the perfect depiction of what occurred, the audience’s descent into disrespectful audacity, the tenacity of the dancers under horrific abuse; but Stravinsky in this one composition envisions the devastation, the nightmare soon to be visited upon the world, the Great War. Coco Chanel was a witness and inspired by The Rite of Spring, she never left her seat.
In 1920 at a dinner hosted by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev the two icons meet and Stravinsky, a victim of the Russian Revolution, impoverished, living with his consumptive wife and four children in confined quarters, reluctantly accepts Coco’s invitation to move with his family into her villa, Bel Respino, Garches, situated outside Paris.
It is here that the major composition: symphonic, structured, painterly explodes with the evolution of each frame. It is symmetrically gorgeous and unmatched; each scene worthy of a Cindy Sherman film still. Jan Kounen envisions Piet Mondrian, at the conclusion of his march to abstraction, sculptural perfection of David Smith, engineering supremacy of Alexander Calder. The intimate scenes are refulgent in their staged and formal beauty. There is not a messy moment in this movie.
A stunning but brief hiatus in the lives of two fearless, iconic individuals who dared and succeeded in breaking the confines, rigidity; choking, smothering the early twentieth century.