Colette, a dramatisation of the life of Gabrielle Colette, who is one of France’s most celebrated female writers, focuses on her relationship with
writer Henry Gauthier-Villars, known commonly as “Willy.” With Keira Knightley and Dominic West as the key talent there is much to add to this film, including their performances, which conceivably convey the biography of the female ghost and then writer, who is known for her 1944 novella, Gigi.
Following her from her childhood home in rural France to the intellectual and artistic splendour of Paris, Colette spans her involvement with Henry Gauthier-Villars. Soon after they move to Paris, Willy convinces Colette to ghost-write for him, particularly after Schwob and Veber are not willing to wait for payment. Colette, in turn, invents Claudine, and writes a semi-autobiographical novel around this witty and brazen country girl, which becomes a success and cultural sensation. Colette and Willy soon become the talk of Paris, which lead them to pen other successful Claudine novels. However, her social circle and personal struggle spur Colette to fight for creative ownership and gender roles push her to overcome societal constraints, consequently becoming somewhat of a revolutionary figure in literature and in fashion.
The subject is interesting, the synopsis keeps you hooked as you follow this cultural icon through history, with Knightley’s performances creating a conceivable Gabrielle Colette, there is much to get from this piece of cinema. Initially appearing as somewhat of a period drama that we have seen Keira Knightley no doubt in before, it does not take long before Colette takes us on an exploration of identity and gender, which provides the richness, allowing Knightley to perform perhaps one of her greatest characters yet. And Dominic West is not too shabby as the conceited libertine, her husband, “Willy.”
The film focuses on the transformation and metamorphosis of Colette, as she moves from being a naïve country girl to an intellectual woman of the world. The love, betrayals and role of ghostwriter to Willy takes it’s toll on Colette, as she soon becomes, which pains but also frees the writer to have other sexual partners, and to realise her awakening. It’s full and rich, and the characters within this film will satisfy, as they do not lie flat throughout this hour and fifty-one minutes. Stylised, with a grade to meet the viewer’s expectation of Paris throughout the late eighteen hundreds, it’s a fantastic tale for the big screen, one which Wash Westmoreland tells rather astonishingly.
Colette is out on general release now in the UK.