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Movie Review: Coco Before Chanel

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When one thinks of the fashion label Chanel, one generally thinks of high-priced clothes and the long-running commercials for Chanel No. 5 perfume that featured The Ink Spots' song "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire." In the movie Coco Before Chanel, we're reminded that the label began with fashion icon Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, who fought her way up from being born in a poorhouse to founding an empire. And though the movie is about Chanel's early days, her loves, high-class friends and eye for clothes, its main theme is her desire to simply work -- and not just for anyone, but for herself.

Directed by Anne Fontaine (The Girl From Monaco) and starring Audrey Tautou (Amelie, The Da Vinci Code), Coco Before Chanel begins with Gabrielle and her sister Adrienne being dropped off at the orphanage where the future Coco would learn to sew. The movie then jumps forward to 1900 when the 18-year-old Coco and her sister were cabaret singers. There they would both meet men who would change their lives -- for Adrienne it was a rich Baron who wanted to take care of her, and for Coco it was Etienne Balson (Benoît Poelvoorde), a racehorse owner who had Coco stay with him at his chateau at Royallieu.