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The setting is Paris in the 1940s and 1950s. The basic story is the fashion rivalry between Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, but it’s not just shallow fashion bullshit. There are plenty of socio-political aspects to the story, as there was a sharp contrast between the perceived patriotism of Dior and Chanel.

Dior’s sister was a prominent figure in the French resistance. Catherine Dior was eventually captured by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, but survived. She lived until 2008 as a glorious embodiment of France’s struggle against Nazi rule.

Christian Dior himself was not quite so pure. Although he fought in the French army, he made a living during the occupation by designing elegant dresses for the wives and mistresses of Nazis. That sounds worse than it was. He was just a guy making a living in the only way he knew how, and it’s reasonable to say that designing dresses didn’t help the Nazi cause in any way. In fact, the opposite was true because he used much of the money he earned from the Nazis to shelter and finance his sister and her colleagues in the resistance.

On the other extreme, Chanel was considered to have been in league with the Nazis. Many have speculated that the only thing that prevented Chanel from being tried as a collaborator was her friendship with powerful people like Winston Churchill, who intervened on her behalf. She may have avoided the justice of the courts, but she could not evade the judgement of the people, so her unpopularity in Paris drove her to live many years as an exile in Switzerland.

Recently declassified documents revealed that Chanel had collaborated directly with the Nazi intelligence service, although the script in this series tries to take a measured view of that. It portrays her as a desperate woman with no choice but to deal with the Nazis in order to get back a company that was stolen from her by unscrupulous partners. Conveniently for her, the men who swindled her were Jewish, which meant that the Nazis were more than eager to help – in exchange for her co-operation. The moral cost of that co-operation drives much of the show’s momentum.

This is a new series from Apple+, featuring a powerhouse cast of award winners: Ben Mendelsohn (Dior), John Malkovich, Juliette Binoche (Chanel), Glenn Close and Emily Mortimer. Maisie has the plum role of the acclaimed French patriot, Catherine Dior.

1080hd film clip here.

2160hd film clip here.

Maisie is forced by the Nazis to undress in episode 3, but we only see her in her slip.

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