A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” concerns a love affair between two irresistible forces who have never met an immovable object before. The composer Igor Stravinsky and the designer Coco Chanel, defining influences on 20th century taste, consummated their attraction some seven years after they first met, perhaps because each had become so autonomous that the challenge became irresistible.
If you’ve seen “Coco Before Chanel” (2009), and I hope you have, this unrelated production takes up Chanel’s story after World War I and soon after the death of her young lover, Boy. But it begins with a scene so necessary that the romance might not make much sense without it: the historic 1913 opening night in Paris of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The angular, hard-edged music and the bluntly discordant choreography combined to horrify the bourgeois audience, who booed, hooted, walked out and cast Stravinsky into a depression.
We see Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) in closeup as she watches the performance, but would be hard pressed to know exactly what she thinks. Chanel didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve and indeed barely wears her face on her face. But after the Great War, they meet again in Paris. Now Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen), made penniless by the Russian Revolution, is in exile with wife Katarina (Elena Morozova) and their four children. Chanel invites them to be her guests at her villa, and even at that moment, their affair is a foregone conclusion.
Stravinsky and Chanel are cool customers. There are times when their meetings seem to be wordless displays of will. They are impressed with themselves, and of course they have much to be impressed about: Neither has ever doubted or questioned their own creative genius, and the world was even then validating their judgments. Although their sex is fervent and urgent, one could not quite call it passionate; they are like artists observing their own performances from the wings.