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Coco Before Chanel tells the story of the French fashion designer Coco Chanel (Audrey Tautou) before her name became world famous.

 Coco Before Chanel
After being abandoned by her father at an orphanage as a child, the story jumps forward to her time spent entertaining in small French bars and mingling with the barons and army officers. Gabrielle (nicknamed Coco) Chanel works alongside her sister Adrienne (Marie Gillain) and together they just about manage to keep a roof over their heads; that is until her sister gets swept off to Paris to wed.

Coco decides to invite herself to friend/lover Baron Balsan’s (Benoît Poelvoorde) manor and she begins mixing with high society types. With her keen sense of how she feels women should be treated in society and her natural abilities in clothes making, Coco soon begins to stand out from the crowd and catches the eye of English businessman, Arthur 'Boy' Capel (Alessandro Nivola).

 Coco Before Chanel
Like pretty much all biopics of late, Coco Before Chanel decides to spend all of its time dedicated to just the rise to fame as opposed to the whole story or indeed the periods that are closer to the fans' hearts. Admittedly, on a personal level, this works here because my knowledge of Coco Chanel barely reaches beyond the cool TV adverts with Estella Warren (among others) and being familiar with the name, however it has to be said that there’s a whole lot of time dedicated to a story that doesn’t feel like enough to fill the nigh on two hour runtime.

Audrey Tautou and the cast around her all deliver some fine strong performances but there’s a whole chunk of the movie that just felt as if nothing was happening. Areas tend to repeat that Coco is a stranger to love or that the posh types around her like her hats and question how she chooses to dress. None of this is particularly boring, but I have to say that this middle chunk really felt as if it was coasting and maybe that chunks screen time could have been used to flesh out the very minimal show of Coco working in the fully fledged fashion industry towards the end.

 Coco Before Chanel

Video


The transfer here isn’t particularly detailed but the lighting and warmth to the image makes for quite a nice experience. The heavy use of shadow and dark areas in scenes all come with nice deep blacks and when colour is used it can really show off the natural and well presented palette of the colours.

Because of the lack of really impressive detail the transfer can sometimes feel a little soft, with skin textures and external open spaces never quite performing like I felt they could have. However, saying that, Coco Before Chanel still manages to be a very clean, grain free affair and I found the transfer quite a pleasant one.

 Coco Before Chanel

Audio


For a movie that was never going to be a soundscape of audio pizzazz, I’ve gotta say that the use of score and sound effects, though subtle, were very impressive. Firstly the score sits in the track beautifully, feeling strong and dynamic, spread nicely across the entire speaker set up. Whether it be a simple piano or an entire orchestra the score added a nice element to the feel of the movie.

As for the sound effects, they are all surprisingly crisp and noticeable. The rain drops and horse hooves on in the opening scenes work wonders and as the story progresses the atmospherics in the French bars as well as the rustling of high society dresses as characters interact really added a nice texture to quieter scenes.

 Coco Before Chanel

Extras


The commentary with writer/director Anne Fontaine (as well as producer Philippe Carcassonne and editor Luc Baunier, neither advertised when selecting this option) provide a lot of information around scenes with more insight into Coco and why Fontaine decided to focus on this area of her life as well as what was to come from her later years.

‘Coco Before Chanel: The Meeting’ (18:13 SD) is quite a typical featurette with the director and cast giving facts about Coco all edited together with clips from the film.

The making of (46:03 SD) which is split into seven chapters with a ‘play all’ option is more of the same really. Chapters focus on certain characters or relevant areas of Coco’s life, but other than a lot of footage from the movie shoot there wasn’t too much that interested me, however Chanel-ites might find more in here to enjoy than I did.

 Coco Before Chanel

Overall


Coco Before Chanel wasn’t a movie I rushed to see, but coming out of watching it for this review I found it was a good enough story to watch without having much prior knowledge, mainly down to the strengths of its actors.

Anyone who’s a fan of a good period drama or quite typical biopic storytelling shouldn’t be disappointed, but don’t be expected to get too excited by it all, which can also be said of the fairly bland features. Once again, fans of the Chanel brand might find more in it than I did.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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