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The review of The New Look explores the ridiculous and insulting rivalry between Coco Chanel and Christian Dior.
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The review of The New Look explores the ridiculous and insulting rivalry between Coco Chanel and Christian Dior.


The new drama series on Apple TV+ establishes its premise from the start. It begins with two statements. The first states, “During World War II,” and goes on to explain how the Germans occupied Paris for four years, resulting in the French being subjected to Nazi rule and oppression. The second states, “This is the tale,” and informs us of how creativity played a role in restoring hope and vitality to the world.

Welcome to the world of The New Look, a tale of competition between designers Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, born amidst a global conflict. This rivalry not only hindered the progression of fashion and impacted Coco’s business, but also resulted in the tragic deaths of millions of Jews. However, this story focuses on the significance of art and the suffering of the fashionable French (without mentioning the 76,000 Jews who were deported to death camps by Vichy France). So put on your finest couture and let’s continue!

In 1955, we see Coco Chanel (played by Juliette Binoche) preparing to debut her latest collection after closing her boutique during the war. Meanwhile, she takes the opportunity to criticize Christian Dior (played by Ben Mendelsohn) in front of the press. At the same time, Dior is being recognized at the Sorbonne for his achievements. Chanel declares, “Dior destroyed French couture and I’m here to revive it!” for all to hear.

During the retrospective, there is a shift in the discussion. A student addresses Dior and inquires about his feelings regarding designing clothing for Nazi wives during the war, compared to Chanel who chose to shut down her workshop. Dior then elaborates and we are transported back to 1943, where it becomes evident that the reality is more intricate than what some may assume.

Dior was employed by the fashion house of Lucien Lelong (portrayed by John Malkovich, whose accent would make one hope that Binoche never had to work with him). His job involved creating ballgowns for German individuals and their significant others. However, he secretly donates his earnings to his sister (Maisie Williams) who is heavily involved in the resistance movement. He also allows members of the resistance to use his apartment. Additionally, some of the French wives and girlfriends he designs for share important information with him during fittings and staged fashion mishaps. So, it’s something to consider.

Meanwhile, the fashion designer Chanel lived in the Ritz, which was being used as a Nazi headquarters. Despite this, she ended up befriending some of her neighbors who were part of the Nazi party. One of these neighbors, Spatz, even took her out to dinner and introduced her to the infamous Himmler. In an unexpected turn of events, Chanel’s new connections lead her to agree to deliver a secret peace offer from the Third Reich to Winston Churchill. In return for this favor, her new friends assist her in using the Aryan laws to take advantage of her former Jewish business partner by stripping him of his assets and giving them to her. It’s a situation that anyone could find themselves in.

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Look, as a drama it’s fine. Well-paced, lots of action, lovely to look at and really good central performances from Binoche – clearly relishing Chanel’s acidity and wit – and Mendelsohn, treading a careful line between making Dior a gentle man almost overwhelmed by the world and a total drip. Though even he cannot save one scene, in which Dior attempts to bribe a man for information about his captured sister with bolts of fabric instead of cash, from descending into absolute bathos.

The dialogue does not reflect high fashion. Individuals express sentiments like “Creating was a means of survival for me” and “Be truthful for once in your lifetime,” however, Chanel delivers clever remarks and maintains a lively pace.

The overall concept of The New Look may not be substantial enough. Some may view it as a form of escapism, but this perspective must acknowledge that the Holocaust is largely ignored in favor of a rivalry over tulle. In a time where prominent organizations have released statements on Holocaust Memorial Day without acknowledging Jewish victims, this drama is poorly timed. However, the outfits are still beautiful.

Source: theguardian.com