Friday, February 06, 2009

Coco Chanel

I have a confession to make...

I watched a Lifetime movie.

I generally ignore Lifetime movies (seriously, how many dying women looking for the meaning of their lives can I possibly watch?), but I was instantly intrigued when I accidentally watched a commercial for "Coco Chanel." I say 'accidentally' because I have a DVR and generally don't watch commercials unless they look good (the vfx) or it's a product I want (namely cell phones or cosmetics).

Catching a fleeting glimpse of a woman followed by a black frame with just the plain white "Coco Chanel" in that distinctive sans-Serif Chanel font, I was compelled to rewind and take another look at regular speed.

First of all, the woman looked so fresh, pretty, and unknown. She had a hint of Juliette Binoche circa "The English Patient," before Juliette started running around Hollywood is strange frocks and disheveled hair, and I could sort of see Coco Chanel in her.

Gritting my teeth, I set my DVR to record the T.V. movie (those two words give me shudders) and vowed to sit through the whole thing once it had been recorded.

The movie dragged a bit, without clear editing or proper delineations to signify the passing of time (when in the movie did the war start? where are they when suddenly the scenery has changed to the countryside?). I found it a little difficult to realize what I was looking at, who I was rooting for, and why the particular event being portrayed was significant.

Not that it was all bad- the young Coco Chanel, played by Barbora Bobulova, was all that I had expected after watching the trailer. Youthful, fresh, idealistic, energetic, and full of hope. The actress, in her first English-language role, tackled Coco's character with great enthusiasm and what I hope was accuracy. I would love to imagine that the real Coco was indeed just the way Barbora interpreted, because I loved Barbora's young Coco.

Old Coco was played by Shirley Maclaine.

Now, I love me some Shirley Maclaine. Woman is a comedic genius. She was the sole bright point in the disastrous "Bewitched," which neither Nicole Kidman nor Will Ferrell could save. Shirley Maclaine and Michael Caine made the movie somewhat palatable with their tongue-in-cheek versions of Endora and Samantha's father. But in "Coco Chanel"... Shirley Maclaine did not convince me as being the grand French duchess of fashion. At all.

I thought she over-did her "serious moments" and really explosively over-did her "angry moments" and she didn't invest in her character. It felt like a performance that she cobbled together using old cliches- wounded lover, struggling businesswoman, old lady with chutzpah, chain-smoking granny- nothing new, nothing inventive, nothing exciting.

The movie wound in and out of time, going between the lives of young Coco and old Coco, and trying to unify what is supposed to be a single life. Trying.

It didn't work very well for me. The two Cocos weren't alike at all, and I couldn't take the leap of faith needed to truly accept that these two could be the same person at different points of one character's life.

It all sounds very negative and critical, but I'm just focusing on the qualities I didn't like because I'm negative that way. There were definitely things I liked, other than Barbora (my new favorite Slovak actress).

The production value was spectacular. There were scenes on the beach, scenes in Paris, scenes in hotels, scenes in a manor, scenes at Coco's seedy little apartment and later Coco's lavish studio- all lovely, none of them with (too) much artifice.

Cinematography was generally gorgeous. I loved the color palette for the young Coco scenes- dusky, moody, gray, but still saturated enough to convey emotions. The old Coco scenes were, I thought, too harshly lit and not color-balanced enough. Soft lighting and Vaseline-smudged lenses are a girl's best friend, after all. Couldn't they have given Shirley at least that much??

Another actor I've never seen before was Olivier Sitruk, one of Coco's great loves. He was amazing. And not just because he had a delicious accent (he's French) and could ride a horse well (men that play polo ... wow). He was intense as Boy Capel. I hope the real Boy was as uniquely fascinating as Olivier's portrayal.

His eyes. Seriously, his eyes. The phrase "liquid eyes" applies completely to Olivier's Boy, a description I'd never thought would be fitting for a man.

A photo of Boy and Coco, just because I love them and I love Coco's bathing suit:

I watched this movie when it first aired last year, but didn't really give it much thought until I finally watched the SAG awards recording that was sitting silently on my DVR. (Reproachfully staring out at me whenever I picked another show to watch.)

Shirley Maclaine was nominated for "Coco Chanel," and when I saw the nominees being read, I thought it was a mistake, to be sure. How could she have been nominated?? Why her and not Barbora??

All the thoughts I had had of "Coco Chanel" came rushing back, and I thought now is as good a time as any to jot them down. Plus, any excuse to look for photos of Olivier. Yes, I'm shameless, but talent and sheer beauty are very, very attractive qualities!

I wouldn't watch "Coco Chanel" again, but I will look for the multitude of Italian movies (Barbora) and French movies (Olivier) that my two favorite actors of the piece have starred in.

As for Shirley Maclaine, I still love her. I just want her to go back to comedies! Four words describe it all:

Ouiser in "Steel Magnolias."


ate February 7, 2009 at 9:34 AM  

I was searching google for anything on Korea and I came across yours.

Your writing was simple, fresh but very interesting.

And best of all, your blog made me want to go back to mine and write -which I have not done for nearly a year.

Thank you for this.

jeanny February 8, 2009 at 11:27 PM  

Thank you for reading!

I tried clicking on your name to read your blog ... no access. :/

I hope that you continue to write and thank you so much for making my day!

ate February 9, 2009 at 5:55 AM  

I've not gone public yet - but I will email you my blog address.

I haven't posted anything lately but I will as soon as =)

ate February 9, 2009 at 6:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ate February 9, 2009 at 6:04 AM  

oops- sorry, can't seem to get through your email =(

jeanny February 9, 2009 at 11:34 AM  

I didn't publish my e-mail address, but it's jeannybeans[at]gmail[dot]com.

Good luck with your blog, hope the writing is going well!

Anonymous,  January 2, 2010 at 7:42 PM  
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