By Lisa-Marie Griffith
Last night I went to an early screening of Anne Fontaine’s Coco Avant Chanel at the IFI. I have to admit I have been waiting eagerly for this film, which included a Q&A with the director after the screening.I have had my tickets for this screening for three weeks, probably a good thing as the screening was sold out. Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances, the reason cited, Anne Fontaine could not attend. The cynic in me would like to believe this had more to do with how successful it seems the film will be when it goes on general release rather then personal reasons, but thankfully this did not take from the screening.This is a thoroughly enjoyable film for anyone with an interest in the history of fashion and twentieth century icons. The film concerns a lady with huge social ambitions, Gabrielle Chanel, ‘Coco’, barges into upper class society through an affair with a French playboy Etienne Balsar. Her eye is soon turned by an English man Arthur Capel. While the love triangle often makes Chanel appear niave, for instance she does not seem to realise that bedding Capel right under her patron’s nose will create problems, it also shows the incredible social rise she made and why she was both horrified and intrigued by upper class French society. Indeed, the film makes some interesting statements about the folly of wealth. While the film gives far too much credit for the creation of Coco Chanel to two men that it wants you to believe treated her appallingly (Balsar was not as unkind to Coco as the film suggests), it is a treat for fans of Audrey Tatou, who is superb as Coco Chanel. It also shows how fashion was changing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and as the film will be watched by millions it will make a valuable contribution to the history of fashion. Anyone interested in fashion will enjoy this film.