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Colette (2018)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/11/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/14/2018

 

Throughout the annals of human history, a lot of things have happened and there are many, many stories out there to be told. As we've discussed in the past, biopics and movies based on real-life are a great way to learn about people or occurrences which may have otherwise faded into obscurity. We've also talked about how the formula of making one of these movies should be very simple -- find an interesting story (and it's perfectly OK if it's an obscure one) and make a movie about it. As simple as this sound, Colette shows that there are certainly challenges involved.

It's the last 19th Century, and young Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) is uprooted from her provincial French home, as she marries well-known Parisian author Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West), who is better known by his pen-name, Willy. Colette passes her time in their Paris apartment, as Willy oversees his own work and that of other writers. Despite his success, they are always strapped for cash due to Willy's insistence on a lavish lifestyle. Willy encourages Colette to try her hand at writing stories based on her childhood. He's impressed by the tale and manages to get it published...under his name. The book, Claudine a l'ecole, becomes an immediate it, which makes Willy greedy for more. However, Colette wants to get credit for her work and realizes that this is a chance to have her voice heard.

On the extra features included here, Director Wash Westmoreland, who also made Still Alice, reveals that his late partner wrote Colette many years ago and that he's been working for a long time to get it made. Well, it's great that he finally met that goal, but given that information, and the fact that the film runs nearly two hours, one would expect it to contain more detail. I never like to fault a movie which hits the ground running, but Colette simply jumps into things and we don't get much background on how Willy and Colette met. The movie seems to assume that we know who Willy is and how and why he's famous. I didn't need to see Willy's tax returns, but there's a lot of talk of his love for money and yet we aren't given an idea of how much an author of that era would have made from a successful book. In the third act, Colette suddenly takes on a new profession and, again, the movie simply moves along without taking any time to elaborate on how and why this is happening. It's ironic that this movie feels as if it's 30 minutes too long, and yet the story feels incomplete.

These lapses in storytelling at truly unfortunate, as Colette offers an intriguing tale. For the most part, 19th Century literature was dominated by male writers, and thus, Willy didn't think that anyone would buy a book written by a women, which is why he insisted on publishing it under his name. Thus, we get two interesting sub-plots here. First, there's the feminist angle, in which we balk at Willy's attitude towards a woman's ability to be a recognized writer and how we root for Colette to be recognized for her work. Secondly, there's the focus on Colette herself and her search for her true identity. While Willy is praised for his new works, Colette is forced to bite her lip. He could have easily stood behind her and promote her writing. Also, if the film is to be believed, the Claudine books spawned some of the earliest examples of modern licensed merchandise and (believe it or not) cosplay.

But, the result is yet another docudrama which probably would have been better off simply being a documentary, as the interesting story gets lost in a rather dull movie. Knightley and West are great in the lead roles and the scenes where they go toe-to-toe do sizzle. However, this lackluster costume drama loses the plot very early on and, as it jumps around form topic-to-topic, we wait for it to find its groove. I was not familiar with the Claudine books, so it was interesting to learn about this period in French literature, but I wish that I could have learned a lot more about these intriguing characters.

Colette presents a really weird version of lip-syncing on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, as we can make out textures on objects. The depth works well, especially in exterior daytime scenes. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The party scenes and scenes containing performances show off noticeable surround and stereo effects, especially when sounds coming from off-screen are being highlighted. The score sounds very good and it never drowns out the actors.

The Colette Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "The Story Behind Colette" (2 minutes) plays like a trailer with comments from Knightley and West interspersed throughout, as they provide details on the story. We get five DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. "Notes on a Scene" (8 minutes) has Director Wash Westmoreland analyzing a specific moment in the film, and pointing out how certain things were framed. The final extra is a "Costume Design Photo Gallery".

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long