“After marrying a successful Parisian writer known commonly as “Willy” (Dominic West), Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) is transplanted from her childhood home in rural France to the intellectual and artistic splendor of Paris. Soon after, Willy convinces Colette to ghostwrite for him. She pens a semi-autobiographical novel about a witty and brazen country girl named Claudine, sparking a bestseller and a cultural sensation. After its success, Colette and Willy become the talk of Paris and their adventures inspire additional Claudine novels. Colette’s fight over creative ownership and gender roles drives her to overcome societal constraints, revolutionizing literature, fashion and sexual expression.”
[Text of the DVD cover]
>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<
It takes the British to produced an interesting bio-pic about the iconic French writer Colette! The movie is very simply made (the budget must have been small) but the sets are very nice and authentic (it was filmed in Budapest). The acting is also quite superb particularly for Keira Knightley. Like all biographical work it is certainly dramatized but it seems quite faithful to the highlight of Colette’s life. The movie focuses mainly on the period when Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (played by Knightley) was married to Henry Gauthier-Villars (aka “Willy”, played by Dominic West), the writing of the Claudine novels and her lesbian affairs, first with American socialite Georgie Raoul-Duval (played by Eleanor Tomlinson, of Poldark fame — although her attempt at an American accent is rather disappointing) and then with the aristocrat Mathilde de Morny (aka “Missy”, played by Denise Gough) — which could be considered the French Gentleman Jack. The movie ends as she separates from Willy, after his Claudine betrayal, and finally starts her prolific solo career as a writer.
Colette offers a very good cinematic experience: it is beautiful, interesting and entertaining all at once and it makes you discover who Colette really was if, like me, you don’t know much about French literature. The movie seems to have gone relatively unnoticed (small box-office of $14.6 millions) despite a rather good critical reception (ratings of 6.7 on IMDb, 87% / 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and of 74 % on Metacritic). However, it is definitely worth watching (and it is currently streaming on Netflix).
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Also, you can check the official trailer on Youtube:
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