Colette (Wash Westmoreland, 2018)

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
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Mr Sausage
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Colette (Wash Westmoreland, 2018)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Oct 15, 2018 7:31 pm

Mr Sheldrake wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 6:12 pm
Great chemistry between Keira Knightley as Colette and Dominic West as her philandering, charismatic scoundrel of a husband lends to a liveliness rarely found in costume biopics. Interesting that Colette liberates herself (early 20th century) and reaps the rewards, in relation to the curious self-effacement (late 20th century) of Glenn Close in The Wife, both facing similar situations (hubby unfairly gets the literary credit), and playing in adjoining theaters at my multiplex.
It’s Interesting to see Colette being used as part of the larger cultural narrative against oppression given how very different a cultural narrative her life would produce depending on what part you wanted to tell.

She’s being used as a feminist hero, striving for autonomy and recognition against a controlling, egotistical husband using her to add to his own celebrity. And indeed Colette’s brave and unprecedented acts of personal independence are rightly admirable.

But in a different context, Colette comes across as predatory in her sexuality, for example seducing her 16 year old step son and carrying on with him so torridly that the family had to scheme to get him out from under her grasp. That would furnish a very different narrative altogether.

So, yeah, Colette the person is fascinating, impressive, inspiring, and often very unlikeable, even repellant. She can provoke contradictory responses in you. Colette the writer is a genius, though, undoutably.

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Kirkinson
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Re: The Films of 2018

#2 Post by Kirkinson » Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:31 am

Indeed, as I was reading some biographical notes on Colette after seeing the film, I also read that she was self-avowedly anti-feminist and anti-suffragist. The film makes several curious choices with history, as it simultaneously tries to paint her as more consciously revolutionary than she probably was, while at the same time softening other aspects of her life that might still seem controversial in order to bring her more in line with current mainstream narratives of queerness. For instance, Colette and Mathilde de Morny say "I love you" to each other toward the end of the film, and one of title cards before the credits that summarizes some of the events after the film's stopping point is worded vaguely enough to give the impression that they more-or-less lived happily ever after, when in reality they separated a year later and Colette had many, many, many more affairs throughout her life. So for all its well-intentioned (and often effective) championing of feminist ideals and queer identity, the film also seems to be attempting to impose a rather conservative affirmation of traditional monogamy onto a subject whose actual biography doesn't support it (not at this point in her life, at least).

That being said, Colette the film is pretty enjoyable without ever approaching greatness. Knightley and West are indeed both excellent and play off each other really well, there's a lot of very attractive photography, some witty writing, and an excellent score by Thomas Adès. But it gets bogged down pretty quickly in all the standard biopic tropes and never really rises out of them. It has to gloss over so much plot in order to get through a decade of Colette's life that it ends up feeling much too slight.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: The Films of 2018

#3 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:08 am

Mr Sheldrake wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:04 am
^^ The only novel I've read by Colette is Cheri which somewhat perplexed me. Can you recommend another, mr sausage, that you think illustrates her genius?
Cheri never quite worked for me, either, though it’s one her fans hold in the highest regard. She never wrote a big grand towering book one can point to; her career is made of many, many smaller works. Here are some notables:

Her masterpiece is probably The Pure and the Impure, a kind of cross section of human sexuality in all its peculiarities. It’s something between a novel, a memoir, and a treatise. Never read anything like it.

Ripening Seed is a novel of burgeoning sexuality among the immense beauty of the French sea-side. It’s probably Colette’s most beautiful and sensuous writing.

Break of Day: William Gass called this the great menopause novel. It shows Colette in her wise and practical aspect, the woman who knew the score and made strong practical choices about how to keep on living.

May as well read the Claudine novels as they are what the movie is about. There are five of them: Claudine at School, Claudine in Paris, Claudine Married, Claudine and Annie, and Retreat From Love. The first four are usually collected together as The Complete Claudine, and they differ in quality, with the first being the best and a real scream. The rest show too much of Willy’s influence, with a more conventional heroine and superfluous scenes of exploitative sexuality. Retreat From Love is the first one Colette wrote while out from under Willy’s thumb, and it contains her best and worst writing: she was insecure about the novel so she retains the unnecessary semi-pornography Willy had written into the later Claudines; but the book also contains some of her purest and most beautiful expressions of hard-won practical wisdom and of the necessity of finding independence, creating meaning for oneself, and of moving on after tragedy.

Other good stuff: The Vagabond, the memoirs Sido and My Mother’s House (sometimes titled Claudine’s House but not a Claudine novel), Chance Acquaintances, and Julie de Carneilhan.

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