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A view on Blu-ray by Brian Montgomery


Coco Before Chanel [Blu-ray]

(aka "Coco avant Chanel")


(Anne Fontaine, 2009)







Review by Brian Montgomery



Theatrical: Haut et Court/Ciné/Warner Bros./France 2 Cinéma

Blu-ray: Sony Pictures Classics



Region: A (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:50:26.620

Disc Size: 40,066,566,602 bytes

Feature Size: 30,614,003,712 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.51 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 16th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video




DTS-HD Master Audio French 3298 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3298 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround



English (SDH), English, none



• Commentary with Writer/Director Anne Fontaine, Producer Philippe Carcassonne, and Editor Luc Barnier

• The Making of 'Coco Before Chanel' (46:12)

• 'Coco Before Chanel:' The Meeting (18:17)

• Walking the Carpet: From Los Angeles to New York (7:49)



Product Description:
Audrey Tautou (The Da Vinci Code, Amélie) shines in this intriguing portrait of the early life of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the orphan who would build a fashion empire and be known universally by her nickname, Coco. She journeys from a mundane seamstress job to boisterous cabarets to the opulent French countryside, possessing little more than her unwavering determination, unique style and visionary talent. Also starring Benoît Poelvoorde (In His Hands) and Alessandro Nivola (Junebug). Featuring lush settings and stunning costume design, Coco Before Chanel is the gripping and dramatic story of an icon who defied convention and defined the modern woman.



The Film:

We talk about people "inventing themselves." That assumes they know who they want to invent. "Coco Before Chanel" begins with an abandoned orphan girl named Gabrielle, watches her grow into a music hall chanteuse, who then sidesteps prostitution by becoming a mistress. All the while from behind the clouds of her cigarettes she regards the world with unforgiving realism and stubborn ambition. She doesn't set out to become the most influential fashion icon of the 20th century. She begins by designing a hat, making a little money and striving to better herself. She wants money and independence. One suspects she would have been similarly driven if she had invented a better mousetrap and founded a home-appliance empire.

Excerpt of review from Roger Ebert located HERE



Image:  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The disc sports a transfer using a MPEG-4 AVC codec in 1080p, using the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. I didn't see much grain throughout the picture, but overall the disc sports what Gary would probably call a "film like" image. The director decided to go with natural lighting throughout the film, and that results in a marked difference for scenes shot indoors and outdoors. Indoor shots tend to be less well defined, lacking the clarity and range of colors that the outdoor shots have. Blacks in particular suffer here, with certain articles of clothing looking like dark amorphous blobs. However, I believe that this accurately represents the director's intended look. Once we travel outdoors, the image really begins to shine, showcasing some very strong visuals in the sunlight. Here, the colors come to life and the clarity reaches the levels that most would expect of a recent major production in high definition. What's more, I saw no obvious signs of artificial manipulation or artifact. Overall, its a pretty good transfer.

















Audio & Music:

The lossless audio here sounds wonderful. Presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1, the dialogue, music, and sound effects all came off as crystal clear, without any hint or trace of damage or disruption to the track. In fact, the sound is so good in this release that there's really not much more to say. Small details like the sounds of a party, the chatter of a dance hall, or the clip clopping of a horse come across almost as distinct and clear as they would be if you were really there. The audio is genuinely that good.




Aside from BD Live and a gallery of trailers for Sony Pictures Classics Blu-Ray releases, there are four bonus features. First, there's a commentary featuring the writer/director, producer, and editor of the film in French with English subtitles. Although time constraints have limited my ability to listen to the commentary all of the way through, what I have heard was generally insightful material about the film, editing choices, director's intent, etc. Second, there's a nearly 50 minute long "making of..." documentary that is divided into seven parts, ranging from the historical Coco Chanel to the production of the film. Third, there's a feature where the cast and crew members discuss their impressions of Chanel, her fashion, and the filmmakers. Finally, there's a documentary chronicling the film's premiers in LA and New York. Although I did learn a bit about the film's subject and stars by watching these, they were really pretty standard extras.



Bottom line:

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Going in to the viewing, I dreaded the idea of watching a film about fashion (the same reason that my wife wanted to watch it). Thankfully, the film always maintained a nice balance between biography and drama without ever losing my interest. It's not a great film, but it is a good film with loving detail put in to every shot. Recommended.

Brian Montgomery
February 16th, 2010








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