“Colette”

The Belle Époque Era never looked more gorgeous than in this new period piece based on the first marriage of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. The interiors are resplendent; the outside nature scenes verdant. And Keira Knightley has never been better. Add a beautiful original score and this is a not-to-be-missed film.

Colette was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, but many do not know the early story of her first husband, Henri Gautier Villars and how he acquired fame  through ghost writers. His best ghost writer was his young and talented wife, Colette. When she asked for her name to be placed on her Claudine novels, he refused. Like, “The Wife” ( reviewed Sept. 19th, 2018) woman as kingmakers  is the theme of the year, as rightly so given the manosphere times.

Director and co-writer Wash Westmoreland highlights fluid gender and has Colette’s husband, played remarkably by Dominic West, sanction Colette’s lesbian trysts as long as he profits, both physically and financially. He is quite the libertine in frequenting prostitutes and keeping creditors at bay. He sells soap, perfume, fans, and even candy under the Claudine name. “ Since when is scandal  bad thing?”, he coos. When he bends to pick up the post, he inadvertently farts to Colette dismay. “ Intimacy in all its abandon, my dear.” is his response. The writing is good.

West plays Willy, a soldier friend of Colette’s father. He romances the nineteen-year-old Colette with fawning visits and presents. One gift being a snow globe containing the Eiffel Tower. Later, Willy describes the tower as a gigantic erection that he is rather jealous of….and so it goes. Writers Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, and Westmoreland are having fun.

This is a character driven film, and Knightley is a period piece’s dream. She tells Willy that she can read him like the top of an optimologist’s chart. Colette’s mother, Sido ( Fiona Shaw) , played with great nuance after her cruel, step-mother role in the film “Lizzie”, understands her son-in-law, too. “ A mess, a profligate” , Sido ( Colette’s real mother’s name was Adele)  calls him. Willy sells the rights to Colette’s Claudine novels for a mere 5,000 francs, and Colette tells him that he has “killed our child”. We learn from the film’s endnotes that Colette never spoke to Willy again.

Cinematographer Gile Nuttgens does his magic with a cat on an unmade bed, a bejeweled tortoise, velvet sets all in candle glow. Add an original Thomas Ades’ musical score to the lushness and we have a feast of movement interspersed with the silence of writing desks and ink wells. Denise Hough and Eleanor Tomlinson are both deliciously dressed and willing consorts to Colette. I loved it as a feminist coming-of -age story.

“Loving Vincent”

Four of my review-followers took their time to message me not to miss the innovative film, “Loving Vincent”. I went alone mid-week, early afternoon, and was surprised to see forty people in the theatre. The uniqueness of this Polish Film Institute’s handpainted animated endeavor had been well-publicized evidently. Over one hundred artists captured Van Gogh’s brush strokes through his familiar interiors, portraits and vistas. The screen shimmers in light and substance.

Directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welshman and cinematographer Tristan Oliver deserve accolades. “Loving Vincent” is the world’s first fully painted film. Over 65,000 frames were created to bring screenwriters Kobiela’s, Welshman’s , and Jacek Dehnel’s story and homage to the screen.

Structured like a murder mystery, the known acquaintances of the thirty-seven-year-old Van Gogh are met and interviewed by Armand Roulin, the son of the village postmaster, who liked Vincent. The elder Roulin saw Vincent almost daily  in his rounds, and he respected Vincent’s work ethic and his daily letters to his brother, Theo.

Chris O’Dowd is the elder Roulin, who sends his son to deliver the last letter Vincent wrote to Theo. This kind courtesy, delivering a dead man’s letter, has us meeting some of the magnificent cast of PBS’s “Poldark”. Both Aiden Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson have key roles as the boatman and inn proprietress. Dr. Paul Gachet, Vincent’s psychiatrist/doctor is played by the gifted Jerome Flynn. Vincent Van Gogh is rendered beautifully by Robert Gulaczyk, who reminded me of Ralf Fines in his nuanced performance. Dr. Gachet housekeeper, Louise, calls Vincent an evil nutcase, “Nothing has been the same since he came here.” “ He killed himself on Sunday~his own ungodly act.” We feel his art change how we see the world, rather than how he left it.” The cast is superb. Art’s gift inspiring.

Van Gogh’s life framework is told through his paintings. The cause of his death is surmised. Suicide and the tortured soul made human, rather than clichéd. We learn a few new factoids about Vincent, like the fact that he made all sorts of noises when he painted.

One of my favorite visual metaphors was Vincent’s changing reflection moving in a cup of water. His use of yellow and blue pigment has never been so impactful to me as when I watched this film. Stay for the complete credits and listen to the lyrics:” Now, I think I know what you tried say to me~how you suffered for your sanity..”

The score should win this oil-painted animation more kudos.  “Starry, Starry Night” will bring tears to your eyes, some rolling down the canvas of your face.