Thursday 10 January 2019

Film: 'Colette'

I really liked this. Although I knew the name of Colette (like a lot of people?), I had to look her up to find out/remind myself why the name was familiar.

Set in Paris during the closing years of the 19th century and the start of the ensuing one, it relates to the woman writer, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightly) who creates stories which her husband, nicknamed Willy (Dominic West, whom I would never have recognised under that facial hair) passes off as his own and gets published, the reason being that French society (or indeed many others) at that time would never have accepted a female author being so talented as she evidently was. Her novels involving her creation, 'Claudine', are hugely successful and widely read, her husband taking all the praise and credit, which she goes along with (at first) in order to keep the creditors at bay - her husband and herself living lavish lifestyles in high society way beyond their means. 
The film deals exclusively with the period of Colette's marriage to Willy, her first, even though there's plenty of subject matter for further events in the remainder of her life (she only died as recently as 1954) which are not touched on here. 
It's a 'loose' marriage at least from his p.o.v., he having dalliances and one-night stands which he tries to keep from her, though not very successfully, and she putting up with it - until she starts exploring her own sexuality. (Cue for lesbian affairs!)  

It's all very atmospheric, capturing Parisian fin de siecle society life very well. All dialogue is in English, of course, though whenever we see her writing it's in French.
Both central characters have roles of real substance and both actors are superb in fleshing them out. 

With Budapest standing in for Paris locations (apart from scenes by the Seine) director Wash Westmoreland (who was responsible for the first-rate 'Still Alice' with Julianne Moore in 2014) has done a much-better-than-capable job of evoking the milieu of the time and place, and draws fine performances from the entire cast. I look forward with great interest to his next cinematic venture. 

A fine achievement which stimulates my interest in finding more about the woman at the centre of the story.................7.

(IMDb................6.8 / Rott, Toms.................7.3)


  1. I just saw Keira Knightley plugging this on Graham Norton and it piqued my interest. Plus, I do like some Dominic West.

    1. Dominic W. is one hot daddy, Bob. I only really noticed him big-time as recently as in 'Pride' though, of course, he's been around much, much longer before then. Since then can't keep my eyes off him.
      It's a very good film with a story which may well be far from unique though this is one of the more 'celebrated' ones. Good recommendation.

  2. You may or may not remember that I referenced this movie last month. I did love the beauty of the film and, as I said, the hedonism. I also noticed and found it odd that the writing was in French but the dialogue was in English.

    1. I should have recalled your mentioning of this, Paul, but for some unaccountable reason I didn't. However, I've now looked up your original comment and see that you were impressed by the film - and quite justifiably too, in my opinion.
      I also did feel a bit of a jolt in hearing her writings being read out in English while seeing the words en francais, but quickly accepted that as a necessary(?) conceit and it didn't trouble me much from then on.
      Glad we agree about the film as a whole, though.

  3. I found it all too sanitised, I think the expression is. It was not as I would have made it nor Colette as I would have cast her. The film lacked a cutting edge for me.

    1. I suppose there was something of the 'playing it safe' and, arguably, rather toothless, Rachel. Nonetheless I was caught up in the whole atmosphere of it and have nothing but praise for the two leads.