Colette on screen

French author Colette died on this day in 1954. She is the subject of a biopic to be released in the US next month, directed by Wash Westmoreland and starring Keira Knightley. Now, I can claim no extensive knowledge of Knightley’s filmography, but her acting style from the few examples I have encountered seems … well, what is the exact opposite of losing yourself in a role? Because that’s what I’m seeing. Witnessing her self-consciousness on screen I can never shake the feeling that she is about to turn to the camera and say, “Hi, I’m Keira Knightley, and this is what we call acting.”

That aside (and noting that I haven’t actually seen the work in question), the existence of a movie about Colette is surely a good thing, and the trailer suggests that it squarely addresses the author’s indenture to her husband Willy, but a passing glimpse of a suited female character striding alongside Colette suggests something truly thrilling. Could that be Colette’s lover Missy, the extraordinary Mathilde de Morny? Oh yes it is, played by Denise Gough. And the cast list further reveals that Rebecca Root will be playing Rachilde, the cross-dressing Decadent provocateuse who resented Colette’s greater success. Will she be Salieri to Colette’s Mozart? In any case, the inclusion of two of the most electrifying figures of the Belle Époque should prove more than enough reason to see Colette.



  1. Anna Victoria Karras

    Thanks for the heads up about this movie. Knightly seems a bit of a light weight for this role.
    I’ll be watching for it.
    Best regards from Baltimore, Maryland

  2. MEL

    Totally agree w/ you about Keira Knightly. She’s beautiful and I want her to be great always but her unrelenting Englishness has always bothered me. Having said that, I’m hoping for the best w/ Colette. Maybe she’ll surprise us and convey the louche restlessness of this literary rebel. if anyone can coax abandon out of her it’s Wash Westmoreland. Can’t wait for this one!

  3. I, too, agree with your assessment of Keira Knightly’s “acting” but she is not alone. Nothing can beat Nicole Kidman’s self consciousness in “The Hours” when she glued on a parsnip nose, frowned, spoke like Lord Stamfordham and claimed to BE Virginia Woolf. But yes, of course I will be going to “Colette” – especially if they filmed some of it in the Palais – Royal…

  4. I tend to think of Collette as petite and a bit plump even. Someone with Helene Bonahm-Carter’s stature would have been a more believeable pick for the role. Actually H. B.-C. might have played an aging Colette very well…Queen of Hearts in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was an equally make-up caked-on and hair frizzed look about her at least.

  5. Pingback: Adrift | Strange Flowers

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