The trailer for Coco Avant Chanel – or, Coco Before Chanel – is making its way around the Internets. It’s a French-language drama starring Amelie’s Audrey Tautou as the legendary couturiere, and from the looks of the trailer (which, malheureusement, is sans English subtitles for the moment), it appears to be a lavish period piece just the way I love ‘em. (It’s in theaters in France next month. Still waiting on a release date here, but the trailer is embedded below.) We see Tautou’s Coco enjoy some boy talk with her sister (“Do you really think a baron is going to marry a girl like you?”) and we get a glimpse of the iconoclastic Chanel’s rise to fashion greatness. “What I’m missing is a job,” she says. “I’m going to Paris!” The spot also teases the love triangle between Chanel and two different men, one of whom is played by the United States’ very own Alessandro Nivola. You can hear his slightly accented French in the trailer’s voice over, whispering all pillow-talk style, “You have a different destiny. You are like no one else.” Apparently, the Boston-born actor learned to speak French to play Arthur “Boy” Capel, a wealthy English aristocrat and polo player said to have influenced Chanel’s menswear-inspired designs.
So what does the movie mean for Tautou’s career here in the States? The last time we saw her en anglais was in The Da Vinci Code which, let’s be honest, was not her finest hour. The petite French actress and Ron Howard’s adventure thriller did not go together like a freshly-baked gougère and a well-aged Côtes du Rhône. She looked uncomfortable from start to finish and conveyed little of the charm that flows so effortlessly when she acts in her native tongue. But in Coco Avant Chanel, she appears to be confident, sophisticated, and even a tad defiant. “I’ll speak to you however I please!” she tells her older-man, non-Nivola lover (Benoît Poelvoorde). The difference in comfort levels is understandable. Plenty of other European actors have tried working in English with middling results and ended up returning to the other side of the Atlantic for good. (In the case of Emanuelle Béart, I’d argue this is actually a good thing. Oh, snap!) Now, I’m not saying that a foreign actor needs to work in Hollywood to prove his or her worth. Despite what Tinseltown wants us to believe, it is not, in fact, the cinematic be-all, end-all of the universe. But I wonder if Coco Avant Chanel will prove to be just the kind of creative rejuvenator that will land Tautou a plum role in a first-class movie American production. Look what Volver did for Penélope Cruz. Two Oscar noms, one win, and a part in Rob Marshall’s upcoming musical Nine.
What do you think? Does Tautou’s new role herald good things for the Amélie star? Are you excited to see Coco Avant Chanel? And how about the linguistic talents of Alessandro Nivola?