The New Look review: Sumptuous but too slow on wartime rivalry of Dior and Chanel

Television: You can feel the high production values in this Apple TV series, but the results are ultimately flawed

One of the enduring rules of popular entertainment is that everything is more exciting with Nazis. Consider Raiders of the Lost Ark (archaeology plus Nazis), Escape to Victory (Pelé plus Nazis) or Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino plus Nazis). Now Apple TV wants to get in on the action with The New Look (Apple TV+, from Wednesday) – a sumptuous but oh-so-slow retelling of the early rivalry between designers Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) and Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche) that spruces up the story with a light sprinkling of Third Reich baddies.

More than light, actually. The series is largely set in the early 1940s, when Paris chafed under the German boot heel and everyone – celebrated fashionistas included – had to make their own compromises.

Of course, there is compromise, and there is compromise. Dior – a grumpy Mendelsohn – muddles through by designing frocks for the wives of German grandees. However, he donates the proceeds to Resistance members – including his earnest sister Catherine (Maisie Williams). He also allows his apartment to be used as a safe house for opponents of the regime – a significant personal risk considering that he is, at this point, still a fledgling designer. If the jackboots arrive at his door, he cannot count on his reputation saving him – or Catherine, as he will eventually discover.

For Chanel, by contrast, the sweetest fragrance is compromise. Though she shutters her business, she nonetheless regards the occupation as a minor distraction, not a disaster, and happily cosies up to the German commanders lodging at her favourite hotel, the Ritz. Chanel soon goes one further by taking up with a sleazy German officer with an English accent (Claes Bang, the evil husband from Sharon Horgan’s Bad Sisters). He treats her to a surprise meeting with Heinrich Himmler and later sends her to Madrid to try to broker a secret peace deal with Churchill. The chic of some people.


Mendelsohn and Binoche orbit one another warily, and the evocation of wartime France is lush and atmospheric (the industrialised murder of French Jews is not dwelt upon). It helps that the series is filmed in Paris rather than, say, Huddersfield, which Disney + tried to pass off as Moscow in Marvel: Secret Invasion.

However, there are iffy accents français galore – the most blatant offender being John Malkovich as Dior’s patron, the designer Lucien Lelong – and the whole affair unfolds with all the haste of treacle rolling uphill. You can feel the quality in the production values, and the performances are earnest – but neither is enough to compensate for the dreary pacing. Dull and self-important, The New Look is all dressed up with nowhere to go.