Reviews - September 2009

Reviews - September 2009

Cinema Release by Pierre de VilliersCoco Before ChanelDirector: Anne FontaineStarring: Audrey Tautou, Beno�t Poelvoorde, Alessandro NivolaCertificate: 12ARunning time:  110 minutesRelease date: On general release now

As an actress, stepping into the stylish shoes of French fashion icon Coco Chanel is by no means an easy task. A dream role could so easily become a nightmare if you fail to do justice to one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Take a bow, then, Audrey Tautou, who, in Coco Before Chanel, does a marvellous job of getting under the skin of the complex woman who gave birth to a clothing empire. An engrossing, if frustratingly incomplete, biopic, Anne Fontaine’s film explores how Chanel’s early life – during which she experienced abandonment, heartache and compromise – shaped her as a person and designer. Forced to develop a fiercely independent streak after being dumped with her sister at an orphanage by her father, Gabrielle Chanel makes ends meet by working as a showgirl at night and seamstress in Moulins by day. Her no-nonsense charm wins Chanel admirers, including toff �tienne Balsan (Poelvoorde) whose ch�teau becomes a haven for the budding designer. It is at Balsan’s home where Chanel develops her androgynous style – eschewing the corsets and feathery hats endured by socialites – and enters into a tragic love affair with Englishman Arthur Boy’ Capel (Nivola). Those expecting a comprehensive study of the fashion legend’s life might well feel short-changed by Coco Before Chanel. With Fontaine ending her film after Capel’s death in 1919, there is a massive amount – Chanel’s stint in Hollywood, attaching her name to perfume, her affair with an SS officer – that has been trimmed away. The time period covered by the film also means that – but for a brief scene in the designer’s salon on the Rue Cambon – Chanel’s most striking creations aren’t on display. With so much left to explore, there is certainly a case to be made for another Coco Chanel biopic covering her later life. If that ever comes to pass, Tautou, who puts in a beautifully nuanced performance as Chanel, has already proven she is tailor-made for the role. Our rating: ***Books BY EVE MIDDLETONForever Nude: a FictionGuy Goffette, Vintage Books, �7.99 As a founding member of the Nabis art movement, the artist Pierre Bonnard is best-known for his post-Impressionist avant-garde paintings. Forever Nude, originally written in French by the Belgian author Guy Goffette and translated by Michel Houellebecq’s long-time collaborator Frank Wynne, is the story of the artist’s life-long relationship with Marthe de M�ligny, the woman who became his muse and lover until her death in 1942. At only 135 pages long, it’s a quick read. Written in the third person, it intermingles factual details of the relationship between Bonnard and M�ligny with an omniscient narrative that throws a questionable light on actual events. It’s not the best title for those looking for a straightforward biography – however, for fans of Bonnard Forever Nude adds another dimension to the artist’s life. Our rating: ***

Paris SecretsJanelle McCulloch, Images Publishing, �35A veritable feast for the eyes, Janelle McCulloch’s pain-staking compilation of images from the most beautiful corners of Paris stands testament to all that the city has to offer. The book is split into three main chapters; architecture, interiors, and quartiers and corners, each detailing the main features that make the capital so attractive to both tourists and inhabitants alike. There’s no denying that the quality of the photography is superb – McCulloch also provides snippets of information at key points throughout the book for those uninitiated in the delights of Paris. If you’re tempted to make a weekend dash to sample the city for yourself, there’s even a list at the back of the book of featured hotels and apartments available to rent.Our rating: ****