Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Before Chanel, There was Coco

Unlike most of the movies made based on the story of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, this one clearly stands apart. Coco Before Chanel (Coco Avant Chanel) tells the side of Mademoiselle Chanel which was not frequently told - the strong and outspoken yet fragile Chanel who was desperate to excel and thirsty for a taste of love of her own.

Audrey Tautou plays the Mademoiselle in this picture and she did it brilliantly. Roughly, the story opens with Chanel in her child age, being left at an orphanage with her sister by her own father - which never came back to see them. They grew up together and earn a living by becoming singers in a bar.

Actually, they were more of an entertainer than singers. They entertained the crowd with funny songs especially 'Do You See Coco?' (I don't know how to put it in French) which earned her famous nickname 'Coco' until now.

Life was hard for both of them, especially growing up in the early 1900. That was why her sister chose the simpler way by marrying a Baron and left Chanel on her two feet. She couldn't find any singing nor acting job, and she too chose the easy way out by becoming a mistress of Etienne Balsan, a rich French socialite whom she secretly hope of marrying one day.

However Balsan wanted no commitment and he was as free as a bird. Chanel too knew she would not want to be like any other girl Balsan had played around before her. She knew she wanted to excel, to be different and to be as successful as a man at that time but she didn't know how. On top of that, she didn't even know what her real niche was - whether it was singing, acting or millinery.

She felt she was invisible there, being trapped in that huge mansion of Balsan's. She thought no one really saw the potential she had - until along came a friend of Balsan named Boy, or Arthur Capel, who became Chanel's first and only love.

Boy influenced her way of designing. It was from Boy's suit she transformed it into her own version of womens jacket with masculine, boxy shoulders. And Boy respected Chanel's own eccentric style. During a time when women would always wear elaborate, white dresses with heavy, floral-decorated hats, Chanel went against all odds by choosing simple black dress with plain mens hat. She refused to wear those long, heavily embroided dresses which she said 'resembled a curtain'.

Though they were never married, Boy supported Chanel's move to Paris by providing her starting capital to open her own shop, selling dresses and hats in her own design and the rest is history. However, her joy was short-live when Boy was killed in an accident, en route to meet Chanel for a surprise rendezvous.

There was so much to be learn in this movie from this magnificent lady. Audrey Tautou showed the vulnerable side of Chanel brilliantly yet still managed to depict her determination to stand for what she believed for. When no one thought this small quiet girl would revolutionized the fashion world of today, she did it. No wonder she was the only female to be listed in TIME's 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.

According to this picture, the two most valuable things in her life were love and passion. She got her inspirations from being in love and from the person she loved. She was passionate about what she believed in and how she strive to put that into reality.

Mademoiselle Coco Chanel worked until the day she died on January 10, 1971 at the age of 87. It was Sunday - the day she hated most because it was her rest day.

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