Genius In That Midst

The French film, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, leaves one again amazed at those times in artistic history when geniuses waltzed and worked and loved amongst each other.

The magnificent opening depicts the premiere, in 1913, of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Elysees, with a ballet (long since relegated to oblivion) choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. The jeers (“An insult to music!”) from the crowd evolved into chaos, the police brought in to restore order. So there’s Stravinsky…and Nijinsky…and Sergei Diaghilev (who consoles a despondent Nijinsky with “God tests those He loves the most’)…and Chanel, in the audience. (Enough geniuses for everyone?)

This is an elegant rendition of the relationship between the two titans of 20th-Century music and fashion, of which, frankly, I was not aware. A meeting of ice-on-ice personalities, whose respective fires only really burned for their work. See the passion of Stravinsky at piano, hammering out the chords of Spring; Chanel’s intense focus on the finalization of the scent that became “No. 5.”

The film is beautiful to look at, the actors, Anna Mouglalis (who crystallizes Chanel) and Mads Mikkelsen (who brings the sexy to Stravinsky), both up to the task of recreating path-blazing icons. Oh, to have been a fly on those walls…

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