Picks and Pans Review: Chanel Solitaire

UPDATED 12/07/1981 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/07/1981 at 01:00 AM EST

Surprisingly affecting, this story of French fashion doyenne Coco Chanel unfolds around the time of the First World War. Marie-France (Cousin, Cousine) Pisier ranges from feisty to ambitious to romantically vulnerable as Chanel. The film maintains its dignity when it could easily degenerate into soap opera. It focuses on Chanel's turbulent romantic conflicts, relegating to subplot status her rise in couture—from seamstress to successful designer. Pisier goes after a dashing stud, an ex-cavalry officer played by Rutger Hauer, and then a cunning coal merchant, Timothy Dalton. Hauer and Dalton are superb. Once best friends, they confront each other in rivalry over Coco. Hauer (the loser) breaks down and weeps, asking his friend to embrace him. It's a moving moment. (R)

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