There’s a reason why films about love affairs greatly outnumber those depicting the creation of great works of art: The focus, discipline and introspection necessary for creativity come off as antisocial and solipsistic onscreen. Jan Kounen runs up against this problem in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, the second recent film (after Coco Before Chanel) to focus on the legendary designer’s biography. It’s based on a rumored tale about a brief but passionate love affair between the consummate 20th century artists. And according to some critics, the art got in the way of the love: “Perhaps Chanel and Stravinsky were too consumed by their art and egos to be truly vulnerable and giving,” one writes.
Nevertheless, the film’s good points make it well worth seeing. Anna Mouglalis is believably intimidating and inscrutable as Chanel, and she's paired well with the Stravinsky of Mads Mikkelsen, the Danish actor perhaps best known as 007 Daniel Craig's nemesis in Casino Royale. The costumes, decor and score are naturally exquisite. And if director Kounen, whose credits include the bizarre Western goof Blueberry and the much-bootlegged crime thriller Dobermann, seems an odd choice for this material, he restages the controversial 1913 debut of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with verve, complete with audience rioting.