'Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky' is an affair to forget

Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky and Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel in Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.

Sony Pictures Classics

Mads Mikkelsen as Igor Stravinsky and Anna Mouglalis as Coco Chanel in Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (R) (120 min.) — Although unrelated to 2009's Coco Before Chanel, Jan Kounan's biopic conveniently picks up practically where that better realized film ended, with the fashion icon recovering from the death of her lover. Coco (Anna Mouglalis) doesn't know he's dead when she casts an imperious gaze upon her next paramour, Russian avant-garde composer Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen).

They haven't yet met when her passion ignites; she's in the audience when Igor's discordant Rite of Spring debuts at the Ballets Russes in 1913, ignoring the booing and insults of a shocked bourgeoisie. Coco recognizes a kindred, misunderstood spirit. Since Igor is married with two children, this won't be a flattering affair for either artist.

Coco welcomes the Stravinsky family to live at her estate, purportedly to give him space to compose more music. Igor's wife Katarina (Elena Morozova) senses something more between her husband and her host, which Coco doesn't deny. Suspicions are proven true, and confessions ring hollow since Coco and Igor don't bother to conceal their passion.

Kounan is hampered by the fact that Coco and Igor's story ended with the whimper of a husband returning from waywardness. There's an awkward climactic flash-forward to the lovers in old age, still apparently missing each other, that provides for a lame finish to the film. Before that, Kounan stages several captivating scenes — the Ballets Russes sequence takes up an entire reel, and is worth it — while Mouglalis and Mikkelsen exude erotic arrogance.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is an elegant scandal almost devoid of true passion, no matter how many times the nude lovers artfully mingle. Aside from Coco choosing among dozens of numbered designer perfumes — No. 5 will do, thank you — there isn't a sense of her fashion spirit, as in Coco Before Chanel. Kounan simply designs a sexy knockoff for the back racks of biopics. B- (BayWalk 20 in St. Petersburg, Cinebistro 6 in Tampa and Centro Ybor 20 in Ybor City)

Steve Persall, Times film critic

'Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky' is an affair to forget 07/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 8:40pm]

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