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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Biography > Fashion > France > Coco Before Chanel (2009/Sony Blu-ray + DVD)

Coco Before Chanel (2009/Sony Blu-ray + DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B/B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



I have not been the biggest fan of Audrey Tautou’s work.  From Amélie to God Is Great & I Am Not to The DaVinci Code, she has been doing cutesy, overrated work to large commercial and awkward critical success.  That does not mean she could actually act.  After several women have played Coco Chanel and so many stories have been told, I was not certain Anne Fontaine’s Coco Before Chanel (2009) would be any different.  Even Fontaine’s work was limited behind the camera.  Instead, it turned out to be one of the best surprises of the year.


Tautou gives a breakthrough performance of her career as the woman who became a fashion legend, but long before that happened.  It is a carefully written, performed, directed and thought-out character study (co-written by Camille Fontaine and based on Edmonde Charles-Roux’s book) on her lives, tough life, uglinesses unspoken and realistic man’s world she lived in portrayed.  At 100 minutes, it was not long enough, something I never thought I would say before viewing.


I was amazed how convincing so many of the scenes were, how the world created was more palpable than so many film and TV shows set in this period have been.  The supporting cast (most of whom I had never seen before) are top rate and the combination of locations, production design and (obviously) costumes are excellent.  Even if you know nothing about fashion, you will see many things about the woman behind the name and that is enough to more than recommend Coco Before Chanel.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray was shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision by Christophe Beaucarne with some moments of some of the best camerawork of the year.  With that said, there is a little more motion blur throughout than I expected, whether from the transfer or digital internegative work.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD version hides some of these flaws, but also suffers in having poorer detail, color and the inability to render the best shots.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix is very warm and though this can be dialogue-based often (in French), the use of music by red hot Alexandre Desplat (Julie & Julia, Fantastic Mr. Fox) takes the surrounds up nicely.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is not bad, but no match for the soundfield and richness of the Blu-ray’s DTS.


Extras on both versions include feature-length audio commentary by Director Fontaine, Walking The Red Carpet: From Los Angeles To New York, Coco Before Chanel: “La Rencontre” (“The Meeting”) and a making of featurette.  The Blu-ray adds BD-Live functions.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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