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Smart and Chic, Apple TV+ Offers a Compelling Historical Drama


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by Xtreme HD IPTV

Creator Todd A. Kessler (Bloodline, Damages) creates a sprawling masterpiece with The New Look. Inspired by true events, the new Apple TV+ series illuminates iconic fashion designers Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, and their contemporaries while the horrors of World War II play out before them. Dior and Chanel are two names synonymous with fashion, and here, viewers discover how their legacies were created and endured.



Kessler’s decision to set the story against the World War II Nazi occupation of Paris works in his favor and, in turn, our enjoyment. All eyes were on Paris at the time, hoping the city would bring the world “back to life” through fashion, and in this series, that post-war task falls upon Christian Dior. (Ben Mendelsohn), who steadily rises to prominence with his groundbreaking designs and influence. Meanwhile, Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche), the world’s most famous fashion designer, is at a major crossroads, desperately trying to save her fashion empire—and her image in the wake of her Nazi ties.


This luscious interwoven saga begins in 1955, when Dior is at his peak, then jumps back to 1943 Paris, several years into the German Occupation. It follows the surprising personal decisions Dior and Chanel had to make at the time, the gray moral area they both found themselves in and their interactions with colleagues and rivals, such as Pierre Balmain and Cristóbal Balenciaga. This deep look into the atelier, designs, and clothing Dior created is a treat, but The New Look uses fashion as a backdrop and tracks two main story arcs—Dior’s rise and Chanel’s desperation. Joining Mendelsohn and Binoche are Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), Claes Bang (The Northman), Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) and Glenn Close (Damages). If you love your fashion and haute couture stitched into a stunning historical drama, dive right in.


All About the ‘Look’

The New Look

The New Look

4.5/5

Release Date
February 14, 2024

Creator
Todd A. Kessler

Seasons
1

Studio
Apple Studios

Streaming Service(s)
Apple TV+

Pros

  • Fans of the fashion world will be in for a treat with the various looks displayed throughout the series.
  • The two main story arcs are flawlessly stitched together to keep viewers interested from beginning to end.
  • Maisie Williams may be looking at an Emmy nomination with some of the best acting in a TV series in recent memory.
Cons

  • The series glosses over a deeper look into Dior’s artistic and creative process.


Fans of fashion-savvy shows like Pose, Project Runway, Next in Fashion, and one-offs such as Halston take note: There’s plenty of eye candy throughout The New Look. Coco Chanel’s attire and various showy clutch-worthy pearls are a delight. And it’s captivating to have the opportunity to look at Christian Dior’s design sketches, which he pins on the walls. The way Mendelsohn’s performance so effortlessly captures the man at work, with a roll of colorful fabric he’ll use to mockup a designer dress for an ingénue and elsewhere, is alluring. When Dior’s stunning creations are unveiled, it’s quite glorious. Much of this comes during the second half of the series, as we see the revival of corsets, tight waistlines, and elaborate full skirts.


Costume designer Karen Muller Serreau knew very little about Dior’s life before coming onto the series, and she had her work cut out for her here, but the reported research done on the era and the style paid off, making everything from everyday attire, the new couture designs, the look and feel of Paris—shots peering down, shots glaring up—capture the essence of an era in transition. We’re fully taken into Dior’s and Chanel’s worlds, immersed in a myriad experience—from opulence (Chanel) to making morally just decisions (Dior) to utter despair (shared by both at varying internals). Effective, sometimes haunting, and overall, thoroughly entertaining.


While “fashion” itself is a character in The New Look, it’s not the main scene-stealer. Creator Todd A. Kessler, having previously proven himself an apt storyteller in hit shows like The Sopranos, Damages, and Bloodline, does well tracking the emotional and psychological journeys of Dior and Chanel during an unprecedented time in history. Two main story arcs—a Dior and an anti-Dior, if you will—are stitched together to create a vibrant tapestry that holds one’s interest, if not fascination, from beginning to end. And yet, what’s missing, but perhaps easy to forgive, is the driving force behind Dior’s creativity and his artistic process. There’s too much other drama going on for that. This is not Dior 101 at Fashion School.

Acting Drives the Story


Ben Mendelsohn, known for his roles in Rogue One: A Star Wars, Ready Player One, and playing Danny Rayburn on Bloodline, another series created by Kesler, turns in a solid performance as Dior, a man repeatedly fraught with tough decisions. At the forefront of these in this series is caring for his sister Catherine, played by Game of Thrones Maisie Williams. He promised to look after her after the death of their mother, and here, Catherine and her boyfriend (Hugo Becker) have become actively involved in the resistance to the German occupation in Paris. The ripple effects of Catherine’s actions give Dior and this series a meaty story arc to track through 10 episodes. Look for an Emmy nomination for Williams, whose heartbreaking performance throughout is some of the finest acting we’ve seen in a series in some time.


Meanwhile, Mendelsohn embodies a man down and out yet pushed to skyrocket high—he decided to take the challenge of leading the world back to life after the horrors of World War II through fashion, after all—and everything about him is tres weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders. One lighter point is his gay relationship with a longtime love.


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Then there’s working alongside Lucien Lelong. Dior refuses to make gowns for lavish Nazi balls, but Lelong is trying to stay in business, and the Occupation is stretching everybody’s limits. As Lelong, John Malkovich offers a measured, perhaps deliberately held-back performance. He’s a contemporary who hired Dior but was never as gifted as Dior was as a designer. You tend to want more from Malkovich’s role; however, the series doesn’t require it. The actor is a force, and it would be interesting to see an offshoot exploring the desperation of this man at some point.

Hail Juliette Binoche

Juliette Binoche as Coco Chanel wearing a dark dress and bow with Claes Bang as Spatz walking together in The New Look
Apple TV+


Onto Juliette Binoche. Mendelsohn and Binoche only share a few scenes together across the span of the series, and when they do, the glaring differences in their characters are even more evident. Binoche eats up the scenery with nearly every turn. As written, the role calls for it, perhaps, and it’s great fun to watch, if not occasionally over the top.


Fierce and unapologetic, Binoche’s Chanel is mostly in panic mode. Her relationship with the Nazi, Spatz (Claes Bang), was never a good idea, and when important Nazi officials, fearing they’re losing the war, want her to negotiate with none other than Winston Churchill, there’s a brief “Coco Takes on the World” moment. While based on true events—that did happen, in fact—the series takes creative liberty to expand the narrative.


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Binoche, sublime as always, delivers a powerhouse performance as Chanel, a woman whose moral fiber comes into question. After the Occupation, she flees Paris for fear of being jailed for her Nazi ties. The series doesn’t overtly comment either way about the morality of its characters, but it does show more sympathy here towards Chanel than the West would. Yet even today, Chanel’s Nazi ties may have become a casual footnote. After all, it’s not as if sales haven’t dropped on the signature perfume or clothing.


As Chanel attempts to keep herself relevant and find funding to keep moving forward, Dior is steadily on the rise. Binoche captures the desperation of the woman caught in the gray moral areas to winning ends. Moments of levity arrive in scenes involving longtime Chanel friend/associate Elsa. Cheers to Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom, Don’t Look Deeper) for adding some zest to this endeavor, which, at its core, is still a war-torn drama. Binoche is sublime throughout, but look for a fine turn by Glenn Close in later episodes, playing shrewd Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow—some exemplary interaction between these two iconic actresses.

Why It’s Worth a Look


Apple TV+ seems hungry for Baby Boomer/niche audiences interested in history. Masters of the Air generated buzz and The New Look will follow similar suit. Creator Todd A. Kessler let the idea for the project simmer for many years, and his patience has paid off. And while creative liberties were taken to execute the historical drama—“inspired by true events” and all—there is something quite mesmerizing about the entire outing.


From its powerful performances—with Williams and Binoche the true standouts—and extraordinary production design to Kessler’s astute attention to detail, The New Look is as lavish as it is compelling. Historical tales always find their way to the screen, but this one is a keeper. The first three episodes of The New Look air Feb. 14 on Apple TV+, with episodes airing weekly thereafter.

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by Xtreme HD IPTV

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