Here’s some Sundance magic for you. I didn’t think I’d be able to see Colette, but at a screening for the movie Sweet Country, I happened to sit next to director Wash Westmoreland. We had such a nice conversation I made it a point to get a ticket to the last show before I left, and I’m so glad I did.
In Paris, 1893, Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) marries author Willy (Dominic West). In the first years of their marriage, Willy is already having affairs. When he’s struggling with a new book, Willy lets Colette try her hand at writing. She creates the Claudine novels which become Willy’s biggest hit, only without her credit.
Colette and Willy hash out their relationship over the plot of the books. She writes about her displeasures with him and he tries to edit them to reflect better on him. She explores love with other women, which of course threatens him further, plus it was a social taboo at the time. Colette was feminist AF.
Franchise Fred approves the success of the Claudine series. The 1900s was still early days for film so Claudine got stage adaptations. I love legitimate theater! There was plenty of Claudine merch too.
The film does a great job calling bullshit in all of Willy’s self-justification. “That’s what men do.” He says men are the weaker sex, they’re slaves to their urges. And here we are in 2018 with people saying “That’s how men are. Get over it.” For a period piece, Colette is very modern and progressive with gender dynamics and LGBTQ acceptance (on the filmmakers’ part. Colette bravely faces an unaccepting society).
Colette is Westmoreland’s most cinematic movie. The camera moves through the fields and the forest. Then the settings of Parisian streets add a lot to the widesceeen frame. This could have been a simple movie about authors arguing but Westmoreland won’t settle for that.
With a dedication to the late Richard Glatzer, Colette is his finest work too. It’s wonderful that Westmoreland could take Glatzer’s screenplay and realize it this effectively.