Posted: 07/16/2009


Coco Chanel


by Laura Tucker

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After the movie on this DVD there’s some backstage scenes, including some of the stars talking about the subject of this bioepic, Coco Chanel. A few mention that the only thing they knew about Chanel before this was the perfume, Chanel No. 5. Add me to that list, making this an excellent opportunity for finding out more about the woman and the product line.

What I came away with after watching Coco Chanel is that she was one strong woman, from start to finish. Her mother taught her how to sew, yet passed away when she was just 12. Her younger sister and herself were taken to an orphanage when her dad left France to find work in America. Coco left the orphanage at 18 and began working for a tailor, which very much resembled a sweat shop. It was clear early on that this wasn’t just a trade, but a talent.

Coco (Barbora Bobulova) had to make a difficult decision when she was propositioned by a wealthy man, Etienne Balsan (Sagamore Stévenin). He wants her to leave her job at the tailor’s and move in with him at his house in the country. She doesn’t want to lose her independence, yet does so, only to find her worst fears imagined. While he can give her everything she desires, he can’t give her the commitment she wants, and she looks back on that day as the one where she opened her eyes.

Forced to start her life over again, Coco begins her first business on her own, making hats, but it isn’t an easy success. Yet, she’s determined to make a go of it any way she can, and refuses to quit. She also falls back in with Etienne’s best friend, Boy Chapel (Olivier Sitruk), the man who encouraged her and helped her find her independent streak again, but refuses to marry him until she can support herself and not depend on him anymore.

All of this background is provided as Coco (now Shirley MacLaine) looks back as an older woman on her life and career. In dire straits yet again, her associate Marc Bouchier (Malcolm McDowell) is trying to force her into selling the company, and she reflects on exactly how she got there, from her poor upbringing with her sick mom and later in the orphanage, to fighting to be an independent woman able to make it on her own, instead of relying on the many men that wanted her.

I’m going to think about all of this the next time I see the brand Chanel. There’s a lot more going on with it than you would think. That name stands for strength and independence, and refusing to back down to anybody.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack, and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, and is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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