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Coco Before Chanel by Alexandre Desplat

Coco Before Chanel

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 Coco Before Chanel (Soundtrack)  by Alexandre Desplat
Coco Before Chanel (Poster and Memorabilia)








Coco Before Chanel (Soundtrack) by Alexandre Desplat

Coco Before Chanel
Composed by Alexandre Desplat
Concord Records (2008)

Rating: 7/10

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“With increasing frequency, [ALEXANDRE DESPLAT's] works are becoming rapturous dreams constructed with economically simple, musical notes and COCO BEFORE CHANEL is no different.”

Elegance as Simplicity
Review by Christopher Coleman

If ever I felt under-dressed while viewing a film, it was the night I watched Coco Avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel). While viewing director/ screenwriter, Anne Fontaine's take on the early life of Coco Chanel, I somehow became keenly aware of that fact that I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It somehow just felt so very inappropriate. I came oh so close to puting on a shirt and tie. Instead, I reminded myself that Audrey Tautou's scrutinizing glare wasn't actually piercing back through the screen, rendering me a target of her debilitating gauze or demeaning fashion-judgments. I can safely say that no other movie has ever made me feel quite like that. COCO AVANT CHANEL is sumptuously subtle and slowly mesmerizes the viewer in such a way that by the time the final (and beautifully crafted) shot of the film is reached, one can't help but be fully infatuated with both Chanel and Tautou. In addition to her brilliant selection for lead actress, as well as Christophe Beaucharde as cinematographer, Anne Fontaine smartly hired on one of today's most popular composers, ALEXANDRE DESPLAT. Fontaine's film reflects some of Coco Chanel's own artistic values, including Desplat's contribution. As mentioned, COCO BEFORE CHANEL is subtle, but certainly not boring. It's concise but overflows with style. Elegance masquerading as simplicity is this film's modus operandi.

Bringing on Desplat seems like the most natural of choices for COCO AVANT CHANEL. Being a French-born composer and master of his own musical style of "l'élégance dans la simplicité," what better contemporary composer for the job? I can imagine the allure of providing the musical backdrop for the early life of perhaps contemporary-fashion's most influential person would be just too great to resist; however, with other 2009 titles like: JULIE AND JULIA, CHERI, ET APRES (AFTERWARDS), FANTASTIC MR. FOX, and THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON, once could hardly blame him if he had passed on Ms. Chanel. Covering the ascension of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel from an orphan, to a "kept woman" (of sorts) to the dawning of Chanel's fashion-empire, COCO BEFORE CHANEL offers ALEXANDRE DESPLAT ample emotional range to explore and fill with his, now, unmistakable sound.

As much as our eyes might delight in the visuals of this film, our ears are equally satisfied with Desplat's elegant music. ALEXANDRE DESPLAT, once again, delivers a score that is full of high-class subtlety - a feast for those willing to go back for seconds. For those who enjoyed his work for 2008's THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, the title theme will likely bring back fond memories of that work, with it's pensive, clock-like pizzicato, wandering piano notes, echoing woodwinds, and landings of deep bass. As often is the case with Desplat's recent works, the beauty in his music is edged with dark threads of threat and mystery - a quality which goes a long way in keeping the listener engaged with the complex story-lines or emotions being portrayed on the screen, but this is also true for the soundtrack listener. Desplat's music is seldom simple "pure elation, "pure whimsy" or "pure suspense," but some unquantifiable mixture of the three. This engaging combination courses it's way throughout COCO BEFORE CHANEL. We find Desplat extending his fanciful, entwinings right down to the score's love theme. Introduced in "Coco and Boy" (3), Desplat's love theme quickens the score's tempo, strings starting to soar into ever higher notes, piano dotting purposefully, and the harp sometimes skirting the heavens and sometimes playing with youthful glee. We, the listeners, edge even closer to the joyous, as Desplat offers us a waltz that perhaps represents the pinnacle of joy experienced by Coco in this film. "Chez Chanel" (2) and "Casino De Deauville" (16) offer the composer two, rare chances to deliver an unspoiled romp into happiness. Listeners merely grazing over this score may find themselves disappointed, but those who take their time to enjoy the intricacies found in this work (and most of ALEXANDER DESPLAT's others) will be rewarded.

With increasing frequency, Desplat's works are becoming rapturous dreams constructed with economically simple, musical notes and COCO BEFORE CHANEL is no different. There's no arguing that this score shares a number of qualities in common with other works from the composer, yet that only makes the music more intriguing. It hardly seems to matter if the setting is turn-of-the-century-Louisiana, France, or 1920's China, ALEXANDRE DESPLAT's unique voice seems to fit perfectly. Then, invariably, when the listening experience is isolated from film, his music hardly becomes tiresome. The original soundtrack was first released in Europe back in April of 2009 with the French title, COCO AVANT CHANEL, but in September Varese Sarabande released the score in the USA as COCO BEFORE CHANEL. While the total runtime is not quite 40 minutes and includes a small caberet song and Scott Joplin composition, the original score offered is still well worth the purchase, especially for those who have locked into the Desplat's vibe. Now, if you decide to watch the film or buy the soundtrack, you might consider sliding into your business-Monday attire just to be safe.

Rating: 7/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Abandon 4:06  ****
2 Chez Chanel 2:33  ****
3 Coco & Boy 2:47  ****
4 Royalieu 2:54  ***
5 Couture 2:27  ****
6 Avenue du Bois 1:38  ****
7 Premiere Baiser 1:40  ****
8 Gabrielle Bonheur 1:53  ***
9 Hippodrome 2:54  ***
10 Arthur Capel 2:09  ***
11 Confession de Balsan 1:26  ***
12 Coco Reve de Paris 1:31  ***
13 Atelier 1:48  ***
14 Seul Amour 1:53  ***
15 Chagrin de Coco 2:59  ****
16 Casino de Deauville 1:37  ****
17 Little Black Baby (Scott Joplin) 1:37  ***
18 Qui Qu' a Vu Coco 1:42  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 40 minutes  



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