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on 7 February 2010
I'm giving this a five to make up for all the imbeciles who have criticized a French film for being in French, and the other imbeciles who think it should have had more explosions in it. Actually, I thought it was a four.

I don't know how accurate the details of Coco Chanel's life are as shown, but it conveys the period beautifully. I think the French do historical films very well - partly because of their attention to detail, and partly because they concentrate on showing how things were rather than preaching or disapproving.

Audrey Tatou is in every scene and is rivetting. She plays Chanel as the relaistic and determined person she must have been. The other actors are good too, no wrong notes.

And it's stunningly photographed. Whether it's the inside of the convent, the ballroom in her lover's chateau, or the beach at Deauville, you can't take your eyes off it. For myself, I would have liked to know more about the fabrics and the clothes, but I realise I'm in a minority. I had expected to watch this film once and move on, but now I know I'll watch it again - well written, very well acted and beautifully photographed.
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Audrey Tatou portrays Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel before she became famous for the fashion house which still bears her name. Being a French film it's subtitled which made it all the more authentic and didn't bother myself and my husband at all unlike some other reviewers! It tells Coco's story from when she and her sister are abandoned by their father at a Catholic orphanage as children where she first learns her trade as a seamstress, their subsequent career as caberet artistes and the slow road to her eventually becoming a milliner and ultimately a coturier. In many ways it's fairly slow moving and languid but Tatou's beguiling performance and the stunning scenery more than compensate for that.

Coco's relationships with Etienne Balsan with whom she enjoys the taste of the high life and Arthur 'Boy' Capel are both senstively handled and it's interesting to see the juxtoposition of her sister's relationship with a Baron whom she remains a mistress of for many years. Of course, we should always remember that in France Mistresses enjoyed a certain amount of social status and probably more than their English counterparts.

Although the ending is somewhat rushed, this film remains a stand alone piece. I thought that Tatou's central performance was mesmerising and that she really 'became' Coco Chanel in the process.
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on 21 January 2010
The Guardian stated in its review of Coco Before Chanel that it is dull. I have to disagree with that completely. This is elegant, refined, inspiring and as an added bonus it features the lovely Audrey Tautou.

Chanel as the subject matter of a film is interesting as when you look at the company's many high end products you realise that you know very little if anything about the woman whose name sits so proudly and smartly them. I loved the simplistic approach this movie took to Chanel's life and the novel idea of analysing her before her success. There are so many gross, hysterical films now that are almost pornographic and it is wonderful to come across a film that is controlled and tasteful.

The story begins with a heart breaking scene, Chanel and her sister abandoned by their father. The DVD extras reveal that not all the scenes should be taken at face value and that because Chanel used to exaggerate certain aspects of her life to convey and place emphasis on social problems, the script was written in the same manner. The plot is a journey of hope, expectation, disappointment, despair, love and achievement. The film is structured in such way that it is impossible to not feel anything but admiration for Chanel because of her courage and her intellect.

Character wise the film is aided by a strong supporting cast who all come across as believable. Boy in the film (Nivola) is the most intriguing character after Chanel. The right depth is given to Chanel's character. None of the segments of the film feel rushed and you always believe that Tautou is her.

I can only describe the script as beautiful. A thing of joy. It really is very pleasant. As the film is subtitled it helps you to take in the dialogue more than you would have done if it had been acted in English. The authenticity of the film is ensured through the use of French in the film and thankfully you do not have to endure actors speaking their lines in a multitude of accents as so often happens in period dramas set in Europe.

The locations used at the different points of Chanel's early life range from squalid to lush. It all looks bona fide.

My only complaint is the very end of the ending which is why I only gave it 4 stars. As with a lot of biopics the film ends with a sort of bullet point list of what happened next to her. I did not like this as it is so often used and just feels tired. Furthermore, I cannot believe that there is anyone who doesn't know of Chanel in a fashion sense so to have to read that she was an icon in that world was a bit silly. I also think that if the screen writer thought that those extra details weren't important enough to portray on screen then you shouldn't have to read about them. That was the only thing I didn't like about the film. Other than that minor point I have to say that the last scene is so gorgeous, staggeringly sumptuous. It is memorable picture and it has panache.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 September 2011
Audrey Tatou is a tremendously attractive and likeable actress and this film relies heavily on her. It tells the story of the early life of Coco Chanel the fashion designer. For non fashion audiences worth noting that over her life she had close associations with a wide number of rich and powerful men, including Igor Stravinsky. During the second world war she was accused of collaborating with the Nazis, and her work was unpopular in France after the war. At one time she was the richest woman in the world.

The film is consistently attractive to look at, it regularly drops in little explanations for signature pieces of Chanel style, like the origin of the use of jersey or the matelot horizontal stripe. It is also nice to see Benoît Poelvoorde who was the rather matter of fact killer in Man Bites Dog.

I have a few problems with the film.

Firstly the pacing, it is incredibly slow, it pretty much drags from beginning to end, though nice enough to look at. Having said that the overall chronology is a mystery, presumably the odd decade must zip past in there, but it is unclear from the film, for example when was the first world war in relation to any of the action.

Secondly the characters live in a world that we might describe as morally ambiguous, or just plain immoral. Wealthy men pick up mistresses and discard them on a whim. Women with appealing looks are content to play the system for what they can get out of it. However rather than allowing any taint to apply to Coco Chanel she is depicted as a rather innocent soul, inadvertently caught up in such things, rather than a ruthless gold-digger. Initially it is painful to watch the determined Coco being drawn into an affair, but for the director she is like teflon, she is not corrupted, or indeed particularly affected by anything, merely picking up more fashion tips, ideas and contacts.

Finally, Coco was clearly a pragmatic and determined businesswoman, who succeeded through talent and considerable drive. As portrayed by Tatou she was an innocent naif who just happened along and would not say boo to a goose. I don't think that Coco got to be the richest woman in the world by just moping around a bit, getting picked up by the odd man and doing the odd bit of stitching.
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on 18 March 2012
With a couple of possible exceptions, Audrey Tautou (Amelie) being one of them, the names of other actors in this movie may be meaningless unless you are a follower of French cinema. But that is of little consequence as they all do a splendid job in this lush, beautifully filmed costume drama. There have been other biopics on film of `Coco' Chanel and many, many books on her life and times. The version being reviewed here however is unique, in that we have a French studio with a French production team putting together the story of arguably one of the most well known women ever born, let alone a French woman! The producers could have a vested interest! The soundtrack has to be in French of course, but the English subtitling is good and no problem following the film should be encountered here.
Gabrielle Chanel was born in the later years of the nineteenth century and together with her sister was placed at a young age into an orphanage by her father who then vanished, never to be seen again. The sisters fortunately survived this humble, unhappy start in their young lives. How this came about and how they went on to have long and successful lives is wonderfully depicted in this superb film entertainment. I won't spoil it for the prospective viewer by giving too much of the story away here! But there is little not to like about this movie. The storyline is accurate, the period costuming just about perfect, and the screenplay above criticism. The cast members are very well chosen - especially the lead role played by Audrey Tatou who bears an uncanny likeness to the real `Coco' Chanel. The colour photography too, both interior and exterior, is marvellous. There could have been related a bit more 'after', and a little less 'before' Chanel during the telling of the story - for example there is little mention of Coco's perfumes - especially No.5 - a number she often mentoned was her favourite figure! But given these and other omissions, the movie is no less a joy to savour. If this kind of film is to your liking, you will certainly like this one! By way of a bonus there is also a decent selection of extras on the DVD, including a commentary by the Director (a woman incidentally, Anna Fontaine), and some lengthy footage of the filming. Enjoy!
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on 7 March 2010
Judging by the reviews here ,this seems to be a love or hate film. Well I loved it, the small scenes were engrossing & the big scenes sumptious. All the acting hit the right mark for me .My other half loved it too & he didn't even want to watch it, so not a 'ladies film 'as such.I've no problem with subtitles myself but if you have - beware of foreign films !
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on 28 June 2014
There are no spoilers in this review.

This is a well-acted and photographed film, and I can’t say too much about those good aspects of “Coco Before Chanel”.

On the down side though, it does not seem thorough in the way it shows her early life. For example the opening scenes showing a very significant episode of her story lasts mere moments in the film and then the story moves forward in time to quite some years later.

If the director chose not to show any of the controversy surrounding Coco Chanel’s later life that is up to the director and she will have her reasons for doing that, but is it an honest approach? when some might watch this and think that this is THE story of Coco Chanel.

Whilst watching the film, I couldn’t help but make a comparison between two French women who lived during a similar period in history and the recent films about them – the portrayal of Édith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” and the portrayal of Coco Chanel in “Coco Before Chanel” and whilst both films are well acted and photographed, Piaf’s biopic seems far superior to that of Chanel’s which comes across as lazy and very much a missed opportunity.
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on 4 December 2010
I've been waiting for this movie since I first read about it. Since I follow both Anne Fontaine and Audrey Tautou creative works I was pretty sure that this would be a DVD I would most certainly add to my collection. It also helps that I have always been interested in Chanel's work.

The movie is, of course, in French with English subtitles. While that may bother some movie goers it doesn't present a problem for me.

It's period faithful, slow moving and definitely an artist's movie. Anyone interested in high fashion or the society prior to WWII should enjoy this movie for the scenes alone. It seems to faithful to reacting the time periods without boring me to death.

This movie has joined my favorite watches for a cold rainy Sunday afternoon: Out of Africa and Coco Before Chanel and Ryan's Daughter should all compliment each other very nicely.
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on 15 March 2010
This film is very well done and Audrey Tautou is a believable Gabrielle Chanel, with her expressive eyes and subtle but effective acting. I enjoyed seeing Chanel before she became famous; although her name is known around the world and she created some of the classic styles which we still wear and love today, it was fascinating to see her humble background and beginnings in this excellent film. As other reviewers have commented, it is not an action-packed film and it is not full of glamorous drama, but it hits exactly the right point with its slow but not too slow elegance. Highly recommended.
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on 18 December 2009
This film is completely not what I expected as It did focus a lot on her life before she was famous, with one iconic moment at the end showing how much of a phenomenon she had become. Even still, I believe that this is most definatly a film to be remembered and if you love fashion then you must see it! Audrey tatou DOES play Coco Chanel (in her own interpretation) brilliantly.

Yes, at some parts this film is rather slow however this represents to me how her life progressed as she didnt get into the indsustry straight away she had to work at it! It is in subtitles for those who dont know however i dont find this too offputting as it gives a more realistic interpretation of Chanel's life.

I dont think this film is for all film fanatics as a love or interest in fashion -I personally think- is required to fully enjoy it. Prehaps if there were more fashion related films I would be more picky with this one however there is something unique and special about 'Coco before Chanel' nethertheless!

The reason I do not give this film 5 stars is that they COULD have made it slightly more fast paced at times and also show more of her clothes in better detail as there is a lot less about the clothes themselves than I had thought prior to watching this film.
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