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Tuesday, November 20, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTODominic West as Willy and Keira Knightley as Colette in “Colette” CONTRIBUTED PHOTODominic West as Willy and Keira Knightley as Colette in “Colette”

Movie Review: ‘Colette’ seeks her writes

Monday, November 5, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Right before the credits roll at the end of the film, “Colette,” there are photos of the real-life Colette and information about her life as a novelist, music hall performer and journalist.

There’s a lot more to the life of Colette than what is included in “Colette” the film.

It makes you wonder why more details weren’t included in the fact-based “Colette.”

At any rate, “Colette” is a good introduction to the French novelist who wrote the 1944 novella, “Gigi,” that became the basis for a 1951 stage play adapted by Anita Loos starring Audrey Hepburn, and the 1958 Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe movie musical starring Leslie Caron.

Colette was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature in 1948.

Colette (1873 - 1954) created a semi-autobiographical character, Claudine, in novels that she wrote but that her husband, who was 14 years older than her, Henry Gauthier-Villars (1859 - 1931), under his nom-de-plume, Willy, took full credit for.

Willy and Colette were the toast of the Paris avant-garde in the early 1900s. When Colette requests author credit on the novels, all heck breaks loose between she and Willy.

In its storyline, “Colette” is somewhat similar to the fictional storyline in “The Wife” (2018), starring Glenn Close as the writer behind the novels of her husband, (played by Jonathan Pryce), who was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature.

Keira Knightley (Oscar nominee, supporting actress, “The Imitation Game,” 2014; “Pride & Prejudice,” actress, 2005) portrays Colette with a fresh, fierce and unapolagetic approach that represents the independent spirit of a young woman who is still finding her way in the world and determining who she is and wants to become.

Dominic West (TV’s “The Affair,” 2014-19) portrays Willy with an aloof determination, charming rakishness and overwhelming power that he holds over Colette. Willy’s carefully-constructed artifice comes crashing down when Colette asserts herself. The power struggle that unfolds between them is fascinating and unsettling.

Memorable in supporting roles are Eleanor Tomlinson (TV’s “Poldark,” 2015-18) as Georgie, a friend of Colette, Denise Gough as Missy, a friend of Colette; and Fiona Shaw, and Aiysha Hart.

Wash Westmoreland (director, “Still Alice,” 2014) directs from a screenplay he cowrote with the late Richard Glatzer (1952-2015; screenplay, “Still Alice”) and Rebecca D. Lenkiewicz (screenplay, “Disobedience,” 2017, “Ida,” 2013) from a story by Glatzer.

Westmoreland negotiates the psychological games and gender power struggles between Colette and Willy with an eye toward the societal rules of the story’s era seen through the lens of contemporary understanding and controversy.

The film has a visual look that is rich and luxurious thanks to the production design by Michael Carlin (Oscar nominee, art direction, “The Duchess,” 2004), art direction by Renátó Cseh, Hedvig Kiraly, Katrina Mackay, Katja Soltes and Stephanie Odu, costume design by Andrea Flesch, and cinematography by director of photography Giles Nuttgens.

“Colette” is an intriguing look into the lifestyles of an emerging artistic counterculture that would influence the literary, art, music, and theater world beyond geographical borders and across chronological constraints.

If only the film-makers had included more details about Colette so that the movie-goer might know more about her personality, creativity and motivation, rather than saving the best of her accomplishments for last.

“Colette,” MPAA Rated R (Restricted Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.) for some sexuality-nudity; Genre: Biography, Drama, History; Run time: 1 hr., 15 mins.; Distributed by Bleecker Street Media.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “Colette” was filmed on location in Budapest, Hungary, and Cogges Manor Farm, Witney, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes