The New Look - Photo Apple TV+
The New Look – Photo Apple TV+

A provocative new series “The New Look” delves into what Christian Dior and Coco Chanel did during the Nazi occupation of Paris in W.W. II – and it’s not about ‘haute couture’ (‘high sewing’).

In 1955, shy, sensitive Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) was the first fashion designer ever invited to speak at the Sorbonne in the French University’s 700-year history. 

When he takes the stage, a student demands to know whether he – like Coco Chanel – ever collaborated with the enemy. His response to that question ignites flashbacks to what life was like under the Germans. 

From 1940 to 1944, swastika flags flew as the French Vichy regime deported more than 70,000 Jews to Hitler’s concentration camps. 

Dior was one of several designers working for the elite fashion house of Lucien Lelong (John Malkovich), who refused to close his business, even though his customers were Nazis or their collaborators.

Meanwhile at home, Dior was harboring heroic French Resistance fighters like his feisty younger sister Catherine (Maisie Williams), who was captured by the Gestapo and sent to Ravensbruck work camp.

Although Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche) closed her atelier, she continued to live at the Ritz Hotel – a.k.a. Nazi headquarters – and used ‘Aryan Law’ to eliminate her Jewish investors, the Wertheimer brothers. 

Conflicted Chanel became romantically involved with SS Officer Hans Gunther von Dincklage (Claes Bang), known as ‘Spatz,’ and participated in a botched espionage mission with British aristocrat Elsa Lombardi (Emily Mortimer) to deliver a secret message to Winston Churchill.

After Allied forces liberated Paris, Lelong organized “an exhibition of hope” at the Louvre, enlisting designers – like Cristobal Balenciaga (Nuno Lopes), Pierre Balmain (Thomas Poitevin) and Dior – to create a miniature fashion show since there was not enough fabric available to fit human models. More than 100,000 people admired the exquisite French craftsmanship and opulence. 

Soon after, Dior launched his legendary salon; his dazzling postwar 1947 collection of fitted jackets and full skirts was christened “The New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow (Glenn Close). 

After Germany’s surrender, Chanel was interrogated about her Nazi collaboration, eventually cleared, and her iconic business thrived. 

Inspired by ‘real events,’ it’s adapted as a star-studded fashion fantasy by director Todd A. Kessler (“Damages,” “Bloodline”), who favors style over substance; each of the 10 episodes concludes with a 1940s song performed by a contemporary artist.

If you’re in Paris before May 13, you can see Karen Serreau’s costume replicas at La Galerie Dior, the museum space adjacent to Dior’s atelier at 30 Avenue Montaigne; Dior is now chaired by Delphine Arnault.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Total Look” is a shallow, quasi-historical 7, streaming weekly on Wednesdays on Apple TV+, with the final episode dropping on April 3rd.

Dune Part Two - Photo Warner Bros. Pictures
Dune Part Two – Photo Warner Bros. Pictures

Denis Villenueve’s  mythic sci-fi sequel  “Dune: Part Two” has already grossed $500 million globally, making it the highest-grossing film of 2024 – domestic and worldwide – surpassing the first film, released back in 2021.

Based on Frank Herbert’s anti-imperial, ecologically dystopian “Dune” saga, it revolves around Paul (Timothee Chalamet), heir to the House of Atreides, wiped out in Part One under the fascist aegis of grotesque, genocidal Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard). As with any franchise, seeing the first installment is vital to understanding the second.

In the year 10191, Paul is hiding out on the vast desert planet Arrakis, where he joins forces with the rebellious, indigenous Fremen, earning the respect of their wry religious elder Stilgar (Javier Bardem) and forming an attachment to feisty Chani (Zendaya) as they defiantly wage guerilla warfare against House Harkonnen.

Meanwhile, his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) with her “pre-born fetus,” gulps down the Water of Life, a clear blue liquid that looks like mouthwash that elevates her to exalted status of Reverend Mother within the Fremen’s secretive matriarchal religious group Bene Gesserit.

At the center of the conflict is a rare commodity called “spice mélange,” an addictive drug known for its powerful psychotropic powers and prescience (an ability to see into the past, present & future). In smell and taste, it’s like cinnamon. (Because of their constant spice exposure, all Fremen have radiant blue eyes.)

In the “Dune” world, whoever controls spice mining and management rules the universe: “Power over spice is power over all.”

New characters include the evil Emperor (Christopher Walken), his daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), pugnacious Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen (Austin Butler) and Lady Margot (Lea Seydoux), pregnant with Feyd-Rautha’s child.

Among the most memorable sequences are when Chani teaches Paul how to sandwalk, adroitly avoiding rhythmic patterns in the arid, terra-cotta colored desert that would alert sandworms, when Paul is reunited with Atreides weapon master Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), and when Paul and the Fremen mount those giant sandworms for a climactic battle…concluding with “The war has just begun.”

Written by Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts with an emphasis on action – as opposed to exposition and character-development – this shallow, self-important sequel runs 2 hours, 46 minutes, dominated by Grieg Fraser’s spectacular cinematography and Hans Zimmer’s propulsive score.

The Fremen tribal language derives from Arabic, Sanskrit and Hebrew with nods to French, Greek, Romani and Slavic.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dune: Part Two” is a visually stunning yet sterile 6 – teasing an inevitable Part Three in years to come.

Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.