Film – Colette

Film – Colette

The hand that holds the pen, writes history

Another female dominated film, another historical drama and more lesbians. This one may be closer to the known facts than The Favourite, based as it is on 19th-century author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette.

The film centre on Colette’s (Keira Knightley) marriage to established author and gad-about-Paris Willy (Dominic West), umpteen years her senior but no-one batted an eyelid then either. She leaves her parents and their rural home moves to Paris with him in search of a better (richer) life. She soon realises despite his commercial success, he is always looking for ways to pay the bills and realises one of the reasons they don’t have more money is he’s carrying on his womanising ways. Again, no one bats an eyelid (no different in Paris today?) but this is not the happy-ever-after life Colette was expecting.

Eventually, Willy who employs several ghostwriters to bring his ideas to life decides Colette should also write for him. Although in Collette, the film about French people everyone speaks in an English accent, I like that she writes in French. Out of this secret creative, partnership comes a risque bestseller or three and the couple are the toast of Paris. However, they still seem to be poor so Colette seeks a bit of independence for herself and wants to write under her own name. Only when she is refused – at one point he locks her up until she writes – does the relationship start to break down and she begins to explore her own creativity and sexuality.

I would have liked more of this side of Colette although her first extra-marital relationship provided the film with farce worthy of Laurel and Hardy.

It’s not that Willy doesn’t adore her – he seems to have some respect for her work – but he definitely loves himself more. So it took a long while for her to realise she was not getting the credit she deserved, by which time she has learned a lot about being a Parisien and life as a creative. It seems the real Colette was pretty poor when embarking on her acting career which is quite overlooked in this film despite it referring to money all the way through.

It’s a conventional period-drama about an unconventional woman, way ahead of her time.



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