Monday, 15 June 2009

Coco Chanel

I haven't watched television in years really apart from a little Olympics in Beijing I guess and since I've removed the box from my last few places of dwelling it's the first annoying thing I notice in other people's houses. A big blaring screen that disturbs conversation and if it's pumping out that Fox news sewage I find it quite upsetting in so much that it's a pretty good hate making machine. Not that I can tolerate the banal faux authority of CNN either. (Sorry Guys, I know some of you read my blog)

Anyway, I used to have BBC World on in the background for years, so I'm not trying to be too judgmental about television per se, but I really notice the whole monologue engagement media process. If I sit and watch something without commenting on it via crowd curation or just community utility then invariably it's really good by my subjective engagement metric(s).

I'm really fussy about Hollywood and think most is just rubbish and don't mind walking out of a cinema if I've made a mistake or indeed I have a 3 minute rule that if a gun is pulled out in any script within that time it's definitely a shit movie because good screen writers don't rely on rubbish tactics. Actually a gun in 15 minutes is unacceptable but less than that means it's unwatchable.

I had a long conversation with Noah yesterday about many things including veg-out stuff, which I aim to write up here as currently I'm really really enjoying watching Family Guy (made by Fox, remember what I said about binary thinking) on my iPod on the ferry over to Hong Kong Island from Fantasy Island where I'm staying. It's really funny and I'm making a fool of myself laughing out loud at some of the heavily contrived but beautifully animated jokes. The best one yet is the Moose that get's into the car while visiting a natural beauty spot and pimps himself to the driver saying "I can do Moose things like stand outside and you can take photos or (nice pause) we can have sex" Peter opts for Moose sex and I think it's wonderful that we can laugh at these things even though it's clearly a deviant idea. I'd also like to share the Bill Clinton "boy you are really good" lines but I should get back to the movie.

So after my impromptu Ferragamo shopping thing which is worth a post in itself to see how luxury brands need to work to sell me stuff (not the way 95% of you patronizing bastards think you do in the luxury branded goods sector) I passed a poster for the Coco before Chanel movie and I'm aware that she shut down the house for the war years. Also aside from Prada I think Chanel is one of the most distinctive and beautiful fashion houses while currently under the masterful direction of Karl Lagerfeld, although everyone thinks that so I'll write about who is kicking ass in the fashion world elsewhere at some point too

I lucked out as the movie was just starting so I bought a ticket thus preventing me from spending more money on stuff I don't really need but at which Hong Kong is brilliant for tempting me with.
The movie starts of with her life as a seamstress or pattern cutter in a small shop with a sideline in what I'd describe as semi penny opera French cabaret. Quite bawdy for it's time and it quickly becomes evident that by the standards of the day Coco (or Gabrielle) Chanel is what we now call a liberated woman which is actually an unfair moniker for a woman who chooses not to settle for any man she meets but likes. Guys are allowed to be promiscuous and woman aren't but of course it's a nonsense to suggest that there is an imbalance in activity. Mainstream gender interdependency logic sorts that one out.

Moving on the movie is in French so it kind of scored a few points just being foreign for me  and I even quickly got to the point where I didn't really need to read all the subtitles, but  anway it's a classically and delightful, poignant, quintessentially French style that I haven't seen since La Chambre des officiers which is a must see movie about the early experimental years of plastic surgery for injuries incurred in the First World war by French officers. Tragic and compelling.

Actually the movie is hardly about clothes and it was just delightful watching a portrait being painted of a woman who left her mark on the world. Even more unusual is the somewhat low involvement in the whole clothes thing. One get's the impression that Coco Chanel would have been brilliant at whatever she chose to apply her unusual vision to. I liked her. She was sexy, beautiful, unconventional, difficult bordering on truculent at times and wonderfully portrayed by Audrey Tatou who has that ability to convey authentic happiness with eyes that shine beautifully unlike the jaded and ill informed spinsters of modern corporate life.

Coco, is convinced that love is not for her and so is qualified to have sporadic relationships based purely on sexuality which I'm sure was heresy for the time but seems reasonable to me now. I had no idea that she eventually does find love in the shape of a wealthy French aristocratic figure who plays a man that is both patron to her intelligence and increasingly aware of his growing feelings for her as she drifts away from socially imposed neglect. Coco also falls in love with a remarkable English character who for reasons I wont spoil both inspires her work and wraps up the movie. Who knew the English played such an important part of her life?

Here's the great thing though. Coco has a certain style throughout the movie. At first it's unremarkable but different. Puritan, simple, unfussy and there's some playfulness as she dismisses the ugly and extraneous feathers that festooned the dresses and hats of the era. I could go on about women that dress appallingy because unlike men there's so much more opportunity to look really good and yet I'm shocked how many woman really get by on what's underneath than the style on top. But that's another post. What makes this movie really good are the costume changes where it becomes evident that outside of the hats that Coco develops a reptutation for excelling at, her idiosyncratic style emerges in a deliberately drawn out and visually punctuated manner until the denouement of a post war Chanel house complete with walls of mirrors and refreshing sparkle of light bounces around the fashion house while she takes the applause from the models of her latest collection in a modest manner. It's a great ending that we are more used to seeing from movies of that era. Abrupt but happy. They work for me but might not for everyone.

Without mentioning brands or even really talking about clothes it's exactly what separates a spreadsheet business from one that is about outcomes and not incomes. Go see it and figure out why it's people that make up Brand DNA and values not the bullshit that passes for link testing and lowest common denominator safety and predictability.

Bravo Coco.