May 24, 2009
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Coco Chanel film to close Cannes

May 24, 2009

By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A lavish portrayal of a brief affair between Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and fashion pioneer Coco Chanel in the early 1920s brings the curtain down on the Cannes film festival on Sunday 24 May.

The festival's closing film, "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky", directed by Dutch-born Jan Kounen, stars Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen in the title roles, and is based on Chris Greenhalgh's novel which weaves together fact and fiction.

The movie opens with the infamous 1913 premiere of "The Rite of Spring" in Paris, where Stravinsky's score and Vaslav Nijinsky's experimental choreography were greeted with boos, jeers and a near-riot.

Seven years later Chanel, who attended the premiere, is introduced to the impoverished composer, and invites him and his family to move into her villa.

Although the facts of what happened during the brief sojourn are hazy, in the film the characters have a passionate affair which feeds into their creative energy.

"I ... discovered that Coco attended the first premiere of The Rite of Spring and that Stravinsky lived in the house in 1920, that's a fact," Greenhalgh told reporters in Cannes.

"Other than that there was very little (information). I had the framework of the facts but the freedom to invent everything that happened inside the villa."

Early reviews have praised the look of the movie, which recreates the sumptuous Art Deco style of the villa and the fashions of 1920s Paris, but several said the actors failed to bring the historical characters fully to life.


Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is not the first feature film on the life of the fashion designer to be released this year, after Audrey Tautou portrayed her in "Coco Before Chanel".

Kounen said the coincidence was not necessarily a bad thing for his movie, because it forced him to speed up his production which was therefore less affected by the financial crisis.

Coco Before Chanel hit French cinemas in April but has yet to be screened in most other countries.

"When there are two films with the same character you have to work fast, you have to be out fast," he said. "The film exists partly thanks to the fact that there were two projects."

And while Kounen's movie focuses on the relationship between Chanel and Stravinsky, Coco Before Chanel is about her rise from humble beginnings to fame and fortune and her love affair with Arthur "Boy" Capel, who died in a car crash in 1919.

Coco Chanel & Igor Strvinsky has its premiere in Cannes on the evening of Sunday 24 May, when the main prizes at the end of the 12-day festival are handed out.

In the rumour-filled atmosphere that traditionally precedes the award of the Palme d'Or, French newspapers carried talk that the jury was split due to the imperious style of Isabelle Huppert, the French actress heading the panel.

The Journal du Dimanche said there was speculation that some members could quit the jury, leaving Huppert to present the award for best film among the 20 main competition entries almost alone on stage. The Chanel movie is out of competition.

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie)

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