I always forget how interesting the State Theater is, but then I go and am astonished by the antique business that still has incredible artistic integrity. The theater is old, so old even that the bathrooms still have those waiting rooms with benches where the people with perfume used to sit. The advertisements are for classic movies, or maybe some independent films. People that work there seem artistic and very friendly. And the theater itself… it’s old, but it has a certain ambiance that the dollar theater in Briarwood could never muster. I was able to realize these things about the building because I happened to be the only one in the theater on Wednesday night around 9:30. Sad Face Land. There were people seeing “Serious Man” which I’ve heard is very good, but I was the only one watching “Coco Before Chanel.”
If I knew how to type with a French accent I would, but since I can’t, I’ll just ask you to imagine one before I go on. … Got it? This is important because the movie was in French… Ok, I think you’re in the right frame of mind now. “Coco Before Chanel” was an absolutely fantastic story. It composed the tale of Gabrielle Chanel’s life for us to see. Gabrielle, known by most as “Coco,” was placed in an orphanage with her sister at a very young age when her father traveled to America. She grew up an impoverished orphan, raised by nuns, and became a lounge singer/seamstress. Throughout the entire movie, Coco has this blunt confidence in herself and speaks her mind, no matter who it might hurt. As her sister runs away with a Baron, she is left alone to achieve what she hopes will be a fantastic performing career. She fails early on, but finds a “friend” in Etienne Balsan, a man whose money has bought him friends, lovers, and arrogance. Coco sort of pushes herself into his Paris country home and doesn’t leave. By the way, you shouldn’t be reading this with an accent; I just wanted you to feel the setting a little bit. Yeah, I know, I saw you there struggling trying to speak French. Don’t worry about it.
Coco learns to ride horses and starts reading, while also beginning what will become her legacy. Having only brought two dresses to her new home, she begins making new cloths from Balsan’s supply. Now I know that Chanel has one of the most artistic and fabulous clothing lines in the world, but in her meager beginnings her clothing was just awful. So many different plaids and flannels. It’s sad to say, but her clothes were terrible. Not what I expected. But her style was unflawed. A basic philosophy Chanel held about fashion was that one should remove one article of clothing before leaving the house. She disliked ornamental flowers, laces, and jewelry because she felt that they made women like peacocks, or show animals. Throughout the movie she wears a simple straw hat that is the essence of Chanel fashion, and that is the first step to the rest of her fantastic career.
Chanel promised that she would never marry, because “A woman in love is helpless. Like a begging dog.” She is so confident in herself, and perhaps one of the first feminists in France, that the idea of being owned by a man was repulsing. That is, up until she met Capel, lovingly nicknamed “Boy.” They fall madly in love and the story takes a turn for the better. But like any true story, it can’t work. He is forced to marry another woman for social status, and Coco never marries, perhaps never falls in love, again.
I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, because it is so wonderful, so that is all I’m going to say about the plot. I will tell you that it ends with a fantastic scene of models showing off Coco’s clothing line. Remember though, that the State Theater, and the Michigan Theater for that matter, are both fantastic old venues that give us an idea of the past. Student tickets are only $7, pretty average, just bring your own concessions, because they are way over priced. It’s always a great experience, especially when other people are in the theater with you (it gets pretty lonely all by yourself, and I’m a talker). So overall, the setting was great, the clothing was mostly terrible, but the movie was amazing. It had a historical value and a pleasing muse. Definitely an 8 in my book.
Once again this is
Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer
P.s. See you at Handel’s Messiah this Saturday!