Film: N°5 War, The / N°5 War: A Deadly Duel Behind the Dream, The / La guerre du N°5 (2017)

May 15, 2018 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Documentary / Coco Chanel / Perfume / WWII

Synopsis: A dark chapter in Coco Chanel’s life is peeled back, revealing ties to WWII Nazi figures as she attempts to protect her interest in the iconic perfume.

Special Features:  n/a




Made for French TV, Stéphane Benhamou’s documentary is very specific on the creation and impact of Coco Chanel’s most popular perfume which ultimately transformed her into a global brand and one of the wealthiest women of her time, but perhaps new to the fashion icon’s story is the rather dirty maneuvering which suggests Chanel was a self-serving Nazi sympathizer.

After Chanel engaged a chemist to fuse oils and elements to suggest a cohesive abstract fragrance and supervised the design of the now iconic bottle, Jewish financiers Paul and Pierre Wertheimer crafted a deal that enabled large scale production and distribution of Chanel’s creation to ensure the perfume became a reality in upscale shops. When the Nazis rolled into France, the Wertheimers structured a faux sale of the company to a colleague willing to safeguard the perfume’s real ownership, and ensure the Wertheimers would restore ownership and their percentage of the profits after the war.

Chanel felt she had been cheated, and used a love affair with a German officer to influence an attempt to reclaim the perfume, and what followed was a weird attempt to negotiate a peace deal with the Brits using her prior friendship with Winston Churchill. When that fell flat, she relied on her officer for protection, and chose to stay in Paris, knowing after the war she’d likely face accusations of being a collaborator.

It’s a fascinating tale of espionage, jealousy, and protecting a brand which ultimately brought Chanel great wealth and security. The fashion tzarina isn’t characterized as a racist per se, but in feeling cheated, she exploited the regulations of Vichy France and attempted to acquire the wealth to which she wasn’t so wholly entitled. It was the Wertheimers who saved the brand by starting up a new manufacturing plant in the U.S. using key ingredients smuggled from France, and marketing the perfume to middle class consumers which broadened the brand’s base.

The animated renditions of Chanel and some of the murky Nazi characters are rather stilted, but inspired is recreating hand-tinted footage of archival and newsreel footage from the 1920s using a simple yet fashionable colour palette. Stéphane Benhamou direction organizes the chronology of suspenseful events in a tight 52 min. running time, but it does feel compressed at times; it isn’t a rushed narrative, but while the ending is neat and tidy, leaving us with Chanel as a multimillionaire with more than a little guilt staining her gown, is does feel abrupt.



© 2018 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB — TJFF 2018
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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