Perhaps it's no surprise that French designer Coco Chanel, with her penchant for a dominant black-and-white color palette, would be attracted to Igor Stravinsky, a compositional master of the piano's black-and-white keyboard. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is the second movie about Chanel to be released in the last couple of years, following Coco Before Chanel, and is, by far, the less besotted of the two films. Based on a book by Chris Greenhalgh, it takes a harsher approach toward the fashion icon, depicting her as a person who put her own interests above others' and who cut a direct path between herself and what she wanted.
In this case, what she wants is the married Russian musician Stravinsky, whom she first encounters during the infamous debut of his ballet, The Rite of Spring. She sees him as a kindred soul, a daring artist working outside the cultural boundaries. Years later, Chanel meets him again, once he has fled Russia after the revolution and landed in Paris with his wife and four children under impecunious circumstances. She invites the family to take up residence at her country home outside Paris, and here begins the sexual affair. Yet nothing in this section of the film is as torrid and lively as its first 25 minutes, which are devoted to the performance of The Rite of Spring.
Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen are fine as Chanel and Stravinsky, though their placid exteriors reveal little of their inner psychologies. In fact, the most interesting character in this drama may be Stravinsky's sickly wife, Katarina (Elena Morozova), who, as the composer's greatest advocate and adviser, frequently leans toward doing what is best for his music rather than her marriage. The filmmaking style is rote biopic mode; events sinuously follow one another yet disclose few details. Chanel creates her famous No. 5 fragrance during this time, a process into which we are given a small peek.
The costume design is the film's most enthralling aspect. Replicas of actual Chanel designs were created for the film, and a fresh costume graces nearly every sequence.