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Home > Movies > Coco Before Chanel

Coco Before Chanel

(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: PG-13 — for sexual content and smoking
  • Director: Anne Fontaine   Cast: Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain, Emmanuelle Devos
  • Running Time: 110 minutes
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review




Caroline Benjo, Philippe Carcassonne, Carole Scotta


Sony Pictures Classics

Release Date

Sep 25, 2009

Release Notes


Official Website


As picturesque period biopics with too many symmetrical compositions go, Anne Fontaine’s Coco Before Chanel is surprisingly intimate and nuanced. Its focus is relatively narrow: largely on the period between the arrival of the impoverished Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (Audrey Tautou) at the château of her patron–cum–sugar daddy Étienne Balsan and her departure for Paris to launch the business (and aesthetic) we all know and cherish. The movie’s terrific dramatic hook is that Coco lives as a kept woman while affecting a boyish demeanor and beginning to design clothes that emphasize sleek female self-possession. Tautou isn’t the most profound actress, but she endures humiliation with affecting stoicism and is mouthwateringly cute in modified men’s suits, and Benoît Poelvoorde’s Balsan grows in stature and becomes very touching in his helpless devotion to the woman he once treated as a geisha. Best of all, the movie suggests a connection between fashion and the social order that The September Issue, for all its pleasures, fails even to acknowledge.