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Tuesday, December 11, 2018


(Dominic West & Keira Knightley)

Keira Knightley gives a feisty performance as the French writer and proto-feminist discovering herself around the turn of the 20th century in this witty, enjoyable biopic. (Review by Patrick Compton. 8/10)

Colette, full name Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, packed more into her life than most people, including a healthy carnal appetite for both sexes. In this biopic, director/scriptwriter Wash Westmoreland doesn’t plough through all 81 of her gilded years (1873-1954), choosing to focus instead on the early period when a country girl becomes a woman of the world and a writer (albeit anonymous) with a mass following.

The key to this period is Colette’s marriage to Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West in splendid form), otherwise known as “Willy”, which is an appropriate nickname for a man who spread himself around Paris with some energy. Willy, the ultimate libertine, is also a kind of literary machine, using ghost writers to pen spicy works that he hopes will produce the kind of money that will pay for his extravagant lifestyle.

Willy is a monster, but an attractive one. When he runs out of ghostwriters he discovers that his wife has some talent with the pen. To make sure that he squeezes the tube dry, he locks her in a room and is prepared to wait for his glamorous prisoner to eventually deliver the goods.

There is, of course, a sexist element to all this. Despite Colette providing all the material, she is forced to write all four of her famous Claudine novels under Willy’s name, and the tension this causes eventually leads to disaster. Thereafter we see Colette touring Europe’s music halls with her naughty show, along with her latest lover, Mathilde de Morny (Missy), played by Denise Gough

The movie has been scripted and directed with an amiable fizz, and there are some funny moments when the sex lives of the couple intertwine. One such incident involves a threesome (but not at the same time) between Colette, Willy and an American heiress (Eleanor Tomlinson of Poldark fame) which causes all kinds of fuss.

Knightley clearly relishes the role, investing it with plenty of passion and no little physicality. At a time when the “MeToo” movement is making such waves, this life of an unconventional, talented and fearless woman who battles the odds in a male-dominated world is sure to arouse interest.

Colette is currently showing at Gateway Mall. - Patrick Compton