Incredibly charming: What else should a documentary about Colette be? In conversation, in her Paris apartment, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, mime, dancer, novelist, wonders whether she should give the green light to a proposed film about the houses in which she lived. “I’m no longer photogenic,” she insists; nearly 80, marriages, affair with a stepson and intermittent lesbianism behind her, refusing now even to mention the arthritis that confines and assaults her, Colette is vivacious. Yannick Bellon’s captivating postmodernist film, as much a study of evanescence as any poem by Dickinson, segues into the film that Colette, a few years before her end, has just said she doesn’t want to do. Giving voice(over) to her own commentary, she goes back, first, to the home in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, Yonne, where she was born. Bellon’s camera is poignantly liberated, anticipating Truffaut’s in Les mistons (1958) and The 400 Blows (1959).
Bellon’s film is gorgeous with the vegetation around Colette’s homes: wisteria, green-fruited fig trees, flowering chestnuts, etc. And animals. At the beginning was a cat, which we see playing outdoors in long-shot while the future author of Gigi is indoors being born. The camera cuts to closer views, and finally a closeup, of the family pet: a metaphor for the baby’s birth. Once it hits us that this cat is playing another, long-ago cat, we grasp the point of Colette’s current butterfly collection, which a roaming camera finds woven around her books: an attempt to capture lovely life. “Childhood, happy childhood!” Colette exults. She speaks of having “abandoned” her series of homes before this last one.
Other animals include a bulldog, a squirrel from Brazil.
Jean Cocteau visits! “You wander in your head,” he tells her. He kisses her forehead before he leaves.
The world will never come this way again.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.