Directed by Yannick Bellon • Documentary • 1951 • 29 minutes
French writer Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954) was both a popular and literary sensation. Known simply as Colette, she scandalized French society with her three marriages and her career as a racy music-hall performer and mime artist. She was also one of the finest prose stylists of her era, and a legendary figure in Paris. Her work often explored the struggle between independent identity and passionate love, and asserted female sexuality in a male-dominated world.
Colette won many awards for her work and was the first woman chosen as a member of France's prestigious Goncourt Academy. A prolific writer, her semi-autobiographical novels include the Claudine and Chéri series, as well as The Vagabond, Music-Hall Sidelights and Gigi (on which the Oscar-winning musical was based).
As she narrates the story herself, Colette looks back over her carefree childhood, the inspiration she drew from her rural homes, and her career as a performer. The film, which includes congenial conversations between her and acclaimed filmmaker and friend Jean Cocteau, shows a woman who may be near the end of her life but who remains dynamic and engaged - and occupied with needlepoint.
Filmmaker Yannick Bellon (who collaborated with Chris Marker on the release Remembrance of Things to Come), captures a rare moment with Colette, the literary icon, amidst the natural landscape of France. Bellon interprets Colette's narration visually, in images saturated with charm: from poetic montages of Mediterranean hillsides to collages of photographs rendering childhood memories and moments backstage. COLETTE is an intimate portrait of an artist as well as an expressive homage to her place in the artistic world.