Saturday, January 29, 2011

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky -- passionless relationships

Director: Jan Kounen, 2009. (R)

Having seen Coco Before Chanel, I was hoping that this film would be a continuation of the story of Gabrielle Chanel, even though it is not a sequel. To some degree it is. But it offers little in the way of story development.

This film recounts the relationship between Coco (Anna Mouglalis), the radical fashionista of Paris, and Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale) the revolutionary Russian composer, in the 1920s. Coco has lost her lover, Boy Capel, in a car accident, but meets Igor after being in the audience for the premiere of his composition "The Rite of Spring." The music is dissonant and matches the unconventional ballet performed by a Russian dance troupe. The audience boos and walks out, not appreciating the modernity of the occassion. Coco, though, seems to find a kindred spirit in Igor.

When the Russian revolution leaves Igor penniless and a refugee in France with his wife and four children, Coco invites them to stay at her mansion. While there, she seduces him and begins an affair, right under the nose of his wife Katarina (Elena Morozova).

With a classical music score and beautiful cinematography, this foreign film is slow but could have been fascinating. Instead, it is tedious and dull. There seems to be no point; the story lacks tension and there is little character development, if any. Even the sex appears mechanical and passionless, as though they are going through the motions simply to meet a need. The leads have no chemistry and little attraction, so there is nothing to grip the viewer.

The most interesting point is how the relationship between Coco and Igor contrasts with their work. There, apart, they are passionate and devoted, breaking new ground. Together, there is no devotion, no love, nothing new, just age-old sex.
There is little here to interact with. Perhaps, the film reminds us that our relationships deserve as much if not more than our vocation or work. For most of us, our work will eventually disappear and we will be forgotten laborers. A few will produce goods, inventions or creations that will carry our name forward to the world. But they are rare; they are like Coco and Igor. The rest of us must make sure that our love is not passionless, our relationships are not mechanical. We are imbued with the mark of our maker, the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and he made us for love and relationship (Mk. 12:30-31). Let's not waste this. For that matter, let's not waste time watching Coco and Igor waste their time! Do yourself a favor: spend time with your spouse or loved one, not with this film!

Copyright ©2011, Martin Baggs

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