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Coco Avant Chanel

Before she was France's famous mademoiselle... 

Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Anne Fontaine 
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain  
An image from Coco Avant Chanel

Coco Avant Chanel tells the little-known story of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (Tautou) before she became the fashion legend we have all heard of. After spending her childhood at an orphanage, Gabrielle starts earning her living as a seamstress and a singer at a bar. There, she meets Baron Balsan (Poelvoorde), whom she sees as her doorway to high society. After a brief romance, he abruptly leaves her, but Gabrielle is having none of it – she goes after him, forces her way back into his life and makes him fall deeply in love with her.

While at the Baron’s house, she also encounters an English businessman by the name of Arthur Capel (Nivola), with whom Gabrielle falls in love. He promises to help her set-up a fashion business in England and so, finally, Gabrielle might get her happy ending. But life can be cruel sometimes – will the Baron let her go and is she the only woman in Capel’s life?

Coco Avant Chanel shows us what made Coco Chanel the woman that she was – head-strong, determined and individual. It shows the relationships that shaped, what probably is, the best-known woman in fashion. Audrey Tatou stars as Gabrielle and her performance is, as per usual, superb! The other actors also handle their parts well but, in a way, are always in the shadows of Tatou’s performance.

Although the movie shows very little about Chanel as a designer, it is a must for any fashionista out there. However, you don’t need to be interested in fashion to enjoy the film. The story of a woman’s life and the difficulties she faced and successfully overcame is truly inspirational and heart-warming, and definitely worth a visit to the cinema!

Gaby Aptula

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Screenings of this film:

2009/2010 Spring Term (35mm)