2009 // France // Jan Kounen // April 14, 2010 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac)
B - Jan Kounen's speculative (and frequently downright fictional) film about an affair between two artistic titans sumptuously affirms that not every tale of erotic craving need address romantic love. Years after witnessing the notorious 1913 premiere of The Rite of Spring, Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) invites a hard-luck Igor Stravinksy (Mads Mikkelsen) to her chalet, with his wife and kids in tow. The designer desires to give the composer the freedom to create, but before you can say "kindred spirits," the pair are engaged in a sweaty, desperate, but oddly chilly affair. British writer Chris Greenhalgh adapted his own novel for the film, and both he and Kounen emphasize the white-hot obsessive knots—and inevitable implosion—that can occur when two like-minded souls collide. Both the Rite, which serves as a recurring musical motif, and the dramatization of Chanel No. 5's creation underline the film's fascination with mystery, whether that of the artistic mind itself or the process of inspiration. These themes prove far more compelling than a flimsy notion of fumbled True Love. In Kounen's expressive hands, what might have been a slight (albeit sexy) slice of biopic achieves something finer, a more cerebral cousin to Jane Campion's poetic ruminations on emotional states.