Colette (2018) - full transcript

Colette is pushed by her husband to write novels under his name. Upon their success, she fights to make her talents known, challenging gender norms.

Subtitles by explosiveskull


Gabrielle, wake up.

No, let me sleep.

Come on, Gabrielle.

- What time is it?
- Seven o'clock.

Willy's coming today.


At least it was an entertainment.
It takes so long to get here.

And how is Paris
these days, Willy?

It's a hotbed.
It's electric.

It's heaving with artists
and poets and writers,

all seeking to say
something profound.

Most of them are too young,
of course, or too crazed,

but still, they generate
a certain life force.

We were going in to see
a play, weren't we?

- Yes, La Tosca.
- Ah.

Yes. No, I...
I was at the opening.

I wouldn't bother,
to be frank.

I mean, Sarah Bernhardt does her best.
She always does.

But it's melodramatic
in extremis.

- Maybe I'll go, make up my own mind.
- Well, of course.

But do remember, if a book bores
you, you can throw it away.

If a painting is too garish,
then you can close your eyes.

But bad theater,
it's like dentistry.

You're compelled to stay in your
chair, having your skull drilled

until the entire
grisly procedure is over.

Good point, Willy.

Painful business.

Oh, I almost forgot.

- A small gift.
- Thank you.

You turn it upside down.



Sido, I'm going
for a walk.

Change your dress first.

- I'll stay on the path.
- Change it.

we're going to go in.

He's a good man.
He has a reputation, yes.

But there comes a time in a
man's life to settle down.

Have you finished the letter
to his father?

I keep starting.

But I can't seem
to finish it.

A girl without a dowry, that just
doesn't happen in their circles.

Hmm. They call it off.
The world won't end.

He clearly adores her.

He's visited
four times this year.

I'm worried that
he won't understand her.

- Would anyone be good enough for you?
- Can I go now?

Just take this with you and fill
it up with some blackberries.

I'm going to make a tart tomorrow.
Don't be late back!

I won't.

- Where are you?
- Over here.

Your hair
is a phenomenon.

In the village, they call me
"the girl with the hair."

I'm sure they do.

I should think you're quite
famous here in your village.

How much time
do we have?

About 40 minutes.

But I have to
walk to the station.

Gabrielle, I can't tell you
how happy I am.

So am I.

I adore you.

Dear Willy,

As I walked home by the river, the
light shining through the trees,

my heart filled with
a kind of delicious pride.

After all, you know all
those fine women of Paris,

so I must have something.

I want to wake up next to you,

know that the day is ours,

that life is ours
for the taking.

We will be so entire
and so happy, my love.

Breathe in, ma'am.

There we go.

Ready yet?

No, not yet.

What do you think,

It's pretty, ma'am.

We should try to get there
before it ends.

- Where's your new dress?
- Oh, I couldn't breathe in it. It felt ridiculous.

But that cost me 267 francs.
Don't you like it?

Well, I know you like it.

We'll get it adjusted.

- What is it?
- I think it's toothpaste.

Let's have a look.

There. Perfect.

Let's go in.


It's monstrous.
I can't look at it.

Don't worry, my dear.
It's only temporary.

There's Willy. Willy, Eiffel's tower.
Are you for or against?

Oh, I'm for it, if a little
jealous of this giant erection

in the heart of our capital
belonging to somebody else.

How are you, Count?

- I'm well, thank you.
- Ah. You rogue, Willy.

I see you've brought us
an orphaned relative?

- Hmm.
- A secret love child.

Very good, very good.

No, may I introduce to you my
wife, Gabrielle Sidonie Colette.

- Pleased to meet you.
- Delighted.

Well, astonished,

You, my dear, have caught
the slipperiest of eels.

Now, now, Arman.

- How does one do that?
- I'm not sure.

Where are you from,
you sweet thing?


- It's in Burgundy.
- Ah.

Is that where
you got your dress?

- Have you relocated, Willy?
- Not yet, Count, not yet.

Ignore him. How on earth
did you two meet?

Our fathers served together
in the army.

Willy married!
The wild days are done, eh?

On the contrary, the wild
days have just begun.

Ah! Willy.
Thank God you're back.

- That short story.
- Veber, may I introduce to you my wife.

- What?
- Gabrielle.

Very pleased to meet you.

It's due on Tuesday, and you've not
given me the slightest clue...

Right. Just amuse yourself
for a moment, Gabrielle.

It's simple.
It's an 800-word sketch.

You poor thing.

You want the earth
and the grass, don't you?

gardenia, isn't it?

Well, what is it? It's
calla lilies, isn't it?

So, what did you
think of the salon?

I liked the tortoise.

I thought he was as bored as I was.

I suspect you were more
intimidated than bored.


I thought they were all...
shallow and pretentious.

No. Come on.
You're reading them wrongly.

It's not so much pretension
as exaggeration.

The ideal is to be authentic
but larger than life.

To present a personality
with a capital "P."

You could do it too.
Country girl charm.

Did that woman
have a capital "P"?

- Which one?
- The one you were talking to in the red dress.

Nicole D'Allier?

Come on, that was...
that was just flirtation.

- It meant nothing.
- Well, then, why do it?

Because that's what one
does to pass the time,

stave off boredom.

Come on.
Forget about them.

Have you heard the news?

Willy is married.
Happily married.

And he's going home with his beautiful
bride, who he loves very much.

- Good morning, Monsieur Veber.
- Morning, Matilde.

- Hello, Veber.
- Gabrielle.

- It's cold out there today.
- I wouldn't know. I'm under house arrest.

Schwob's already in there.

Thank you.

All the humor and vivacity descends
into a dreadful operatic swamp.

It releases the very toxins
of man's soul,

leaving the audience
nauseous and pale,

like they've just eaten
a bad oyster.

That's a bit extreme. I actually thought
the ending was rather touching.

No middle ground. Don't soft-peddle it.
Just kill it.

- Veber.
- Willy.


So add those embellishments and
file it with The Echo by 6:00.

Will do.

The factory's on fire.
We're on fire.

I have this remarkable idea.
Or at least I think it could be.

- All right, what is it?
- I'm going to launch a novel.

- A novel?
- Yeah, we have stories by Willy.

We have music reviews by Willy.
Now we have Willy's first novel.

It'll have enough literature
for the highbrows

and enough filth for the great
unwashed, or vice versa.

And who's going to
write this novel?

You are.

Are you writing
for him too?


He's made you one
of his ghosts already?

Just letters.

You're fastidious.

A lot of crossing out,
you mean.

Well, yes.

Willy copies them out
so they're in his handwriting.

No one has handwriting
like Monsieur Willy.

We first meet her,

She's being held aloft on the
shoulders of her admirers.

She's 18, she's gorgeous,
she's dangerous,

she's from the streets, she devours
men, she never wears a corset.

And then him,
our hero, Renaud,

he's a writer,
he's a genius.

He's captivated by her.

She seduces him
in her shabby rooms.

They have five entire days
of carnal ecstasy,

after which she has
this incredible hold on him.

She instinctively understands
his basest desires.

And we wonder,
will he ever escape?

Will he ever get back to his wholesome
friends and his burgeoning career?

Or will he be dragged down
by her toxic embrace,

forget about his writing, and just
wallow in the sexual quagmire?

It's brilliant.

It will be.

Come on, tell me. How
long do you think it will take?

- Two or three months.
- No, no, no, no.

Weeks, Veber.
It has to be weeks.

- Write for four hours at a time.
- All right, all right.

Good-bye, Gabrielle.

If I get stuck,
I'll come back to you.

Yes, yes,
but write, and fast.

Let's get some money
coming in.

Yes, yes, yes.

Oh, God. Chaos.

Chaos! Working in these conditions.
It's utter chaos.

You married a literary entrepreneur.
It's a phenomenal disaster.

You've married a country girl
without a penny to her name.

We're doomed, aren't we?

It's perfect.

But how about, um...

Uh, the contract you sent me is eminently fair,
but for one tiny shortcoming... the money.

Pump it up
before you prick it.

Get more of a pop that way.


Intimacy in all its savage
abandon, my darling.

I have meetings later. Let's
meet at La Mascotte at 9:00.

No. No, make it 10:00.

He said, "Don't worry, I've got some cream for that."

Thank you, Madame D'Arsay.

No, you're lying.

That's 571, Lotte,
for one month.

Well, do you want me
to look cheap?

Yeah. But for that money I can get
laid five times a day by a prostitute.

Oh, my dear.

You've come to...
to fetch me?

She's not
a disreputable woman.

They've even written
a play about her.

It was a shit play,
but nevertheless.

- Who the hell wrote that letter?
- I don't care who wrote it.

Look, Gabrielle, she's no rival to you.
I promise.

Look, I'll never sleep
with her again.

But you have to understand,
this is what men do.

We're the weaker sex. We don't have your
strength. We're slave to our urges.

- And here in the city, it's perfectly acceptable to...
- Nonsense!

I don't accept it. You've been
lying to me all this time.

I wait for you all day long
and I never ask you for anything

because you say
we have no money.

But it's true.
We have no money.

Because you spend it all
on her!

- I really don't.
- And then...

And then, when you get into bed
and I touch you, and I kiss you,

and you say
you're too tired...

- No, no.
- I've been unattentive. I'm sorry.

- I'll make amends.
- Don't you dare touch me.

Gabrielle, I...

I gave up my inheritance
for you!

- My bloody freedom!
- Go to hell!

Oh, no. Ants.

Ah, there must be
some honeydew.

It feels sticky.

Hmm. The white flies
must have got to it.

Sucked out all the juice.

We need some ladybirds.

Hmm. Or a spider.

Got a big one
dangling in my room.

I'll catch her and put
her to work out here.

Did you ever feel like you
were playing a part, Sido?

In what way?

As a wife.

Or a mother.

Like you were just
going through with it.

Sometimes, as a wife.
Never as a mother.

Is he good to you,

What is it, my love?

It's just... nothing
is how I imagined it.

Oh. Come here.

My little kitten.

No one can take away
who you are.

No one.

You're too strong
for that.

You always have been.

Just trust no one
but yourself.

I know.

So what's he done
to upset you?


Nothing. It's just
new, that's all.

I must get used to

Better to make marriage
get used to you.

- Are you happy to be here?
- Yes.

It makes the city
seem even more foul.

Did you miss me at all?

No, not really.

Well, life is awful
without you.

It's just dead. I... I don't
feel like myself at all.

Everything just seems
utterly pointless.

Can't even write

You mean more to me than all the
women of Paris put together.

Have you sampled them all?

Please don't mock me.

You're very happy
to mock everybody else.

It's true,
but it's just...

Look, it's just horseshit. Words
are deceptive little bastards.

But if you trace mine
to their source,

to my bruised
and aching heart...

Well, I wouldn't credit that
as the organ of origin.

I can read you like the top
line of an optician's chart.

That's brilliant.
Did you make that up?

Just tell me what you
want, Gabrielle.

I'll do anything.

I know who you are, Willy.

Maybe I knew it all along.
But I want you not to lie to me.

I won't. Never again. I promise.

I want to be part of things.

I don't want to be treated
like some little wife at home.

I want to know
what's going on.

You will.

You'll be part
of everything.

Do you promise?


When we get back to Paris,
I'll even buy you a dog.

I would love that.

Look, it's so beautiful.

- Luce and I used to swim here after school.
- You did?

She was your best friend,
wasn't she?

Yes. We got up to
all kinds of trouble together.

What was she like?

She was sweet, but she
was also very annoying.

How? In what way?

She was clumsy,
more than anything.

One day in winter,
when the first snow started,

I made a compact little snowball and
smuggled it into the classroom.

As Mademoiselle Terrain was
writing on the blackboard,

I'd take a little nibble of the snow and
then I'd pass it along to the next person,

who'd pass it along again.

- Oh, it's freezing.
- Here, get in.

I'm like a pot-bellied stove.

It finally got to Luce,
who dropped it.

So we both got detention.

- She'd do anything to be close to me.
- I'll bet she would.

You're so witty
and clever.

Get out! Both of you!
This is harassment!

Willy, come on.
You're not being fair.

This is the third time I've
had to come here and ask you for it!

- Then stop bloody coming here and asking.
- I am close to being evicted!

You owe me 400 francs. You said you'd
get the advance from Ollendorff.

- And I will, by Friday.
- You said exactly the same thing last week.

A factory needs to pay
its workers, Willy.

Well, then, why don't you go on strike?
Or get another job.

Get some other bloody idiot
to hire you.

I'll have your money
by Friday.

- You'd better bloody have it.
- Such an ass.

- Damn you!
- We'll be back on Friday.

They'd never get a job
on their own.

I lend them my name,
my reputation.

I take all the risk,
and there's still no money.

- We need more output.
- Well, you could get another writer.

And pay them with what? We're not
even making a thousand this month.

I've got 300 from The Echo,
425 from the latest vamp novel,

and just 250
from the music reviews.

- It doesn't even cover the outgoings.
- How can we spend so much money?

The mortgage, Matilde,

You always pick up the bill, Willy,
no matter how many people join us.

- It's expected of me.
- And the races? And the casino?

What do you want me to do? Live
like a monk? Or a peasant?

No, I'm just saying
we could economize.


- You could write.
- What?

Those stories you told me
of Saint-Sauveur last year.

- My school stories?
- Yes. That could be Willy's next novel.

Well, try it anyway, but try it now.

Start immediately. Aim for four hours
at a time. The wolves are at the door!

My name is Claudine.

I live in Montigny.

I was born there in 1873.

I shall probably not die there.

Why aren't you sleeping?

- I've only just stopped writing.
- Really?

Oh, dear.

- Did you manage four hours?
- Twice that, at least.

You didn't.

You must be a natural.

I've changed a few things...
for the story.

I think it might ruffle
a few feathers back home.

Oh, don't worry
about the facts.

You can change events,
add a character.

Just adapt it
to the times.

All people really want
is the feeling,

the emotion, the great
sweep of narrative.

So you mean I can write
whatever I want?

Of course.

No one will dispute it.

And if they do,

"It's the hand that holds the
pen that writes history."

You're not in the mood?

I'm as weary
as a bear in winter.

Save it for the book.

These are the copses,

where bushes spitefully
catch your face as you pass.

Those are full of sun and
strawberries and lilies-of-the-valley

and... snakes.

I've shuddered there
with choking terror

at the sight of those smooth, cold
bodies gliding in front of my feet.

I feel so much alone there,

my eyes lost far away
amongst the trees

in the green,
mysterious daylight

that is at once deliciously
peaceful and a little unnerving

because of the loneliness
and the vague darkness.

Well, here we are.

You did it.

- I take my hat off to you.
- And?

It's beautiful. I spent the
whole day in Saint-Sauveur.

- You don't like it.
- I do like it.

- Truth?
- Yes.

Yes, they're...
they're really charming.

Sorry, I need to...
I need to take a piss.

What else?

Nothing. It's a...

It's a truly
wonderful depiction.



we won't be able
to get it published.

That's the shame of it.

What's wrong with it?


So I'll treat you like any other writer
I'm giving a report to, shall I?

- Yes.
- Except that I love you.

I adore you.
Should be clear about that.

Just... Just say it.

There's nothing driving it.
There's no plot.

A novel by Willy grips you from
chapter one, whereas yours...

too many adjectives.

And some of the characters
are interesting,

but... it's too cloying.

It's too feminine.

- Well, that's a waste of bloody time.
- Not if you enjoyed it.

I wrote it for you!

♪ Down by the salley gardens ♪

♪ My love and I did meet ♪

♪ She passed
The salley gardens ♪

♪ With little snow-white feet ♪

♪ She bid me take love easy ♪

♪ As the leaves
Grow on the tree ♪

♪ But I
Being young and foolish ♪

♪ With her would not agree ♪

Wague's mesmerizing,
isn't he?

He's the king of the cantomime.
Let's get a drink.

Thank you, Geraud.

- Cheers.
- Cheers.

- How's it going with your book?
- It's gone.

- I tried, but it wasn't any good.
- I can't believe it.

Willy hated it.

I don't care.

- I don't need to leave my mark on the world.
- Hmm.

- Have you always written, Schwob?
- I didn't really have a choice.

It was simply there.

- Does it make you happy?
- Oh, God, no.

I do it to prevent me
from going mad.

But sometimes, occasionally,
it will transport me.

- Hello, Schwob.
- Hello, Gaston.

Good to see you.

may I present Colette?


I think we've been introduced,
but I don't remember that name.

It's new,
in a manner of speaking.

Well, then I shall think of
this as our first meeting.

It is so easy.
On. Off.

No more sooty candles.

Yes, maybe they'll put it
in my building one day.

So much safer too, even if the
light is a little unkind.

Will you excuse me, Arman?

Yes, so, I thought it
was much better than last time.

Let me see your palm.
Oh, how interesting.

You have a long life line.

And a very strong
head line here.

- And your... your love line splits into three.
- Oh.

- What on earth could that mean?
- Who knows?

So many intersecting lines.

I have the hands
of a man. Look.

- Ah.
- See?

You've a touch
of Hermes, Colette.

There's something androgynous about you.

- Willy, you ogre, how are you?
- Gaston, Jeanne.

We have been greatly enjoying
the company of Colette,

now that she's no longer hiding
her light under a bushel.

Quoting the good book,

You may remember a little verse
about coveting other men's wives.

And you may remember one about not trying
to remove a speck from your brother's eye

with a log in your own.

Touché, Gaston. Your wits
are improving... somewhat.

Ah, we'd better go now,

We should go now.

- Bye.
- Good-bye.

His first play
was absolute rubbish,

but his mother runs a salon, so,
of course, it was a huge success

and he was praised to the skies
for his brilliant writing

and his sublime talent.

Unctuous prick.
He was after you.

He's not the type,
and they just got married.

Yeah, well, they're no longer on
honeymoon, I assure you, my dear.

- Your jealousy is misplaced.
- How so?

It was the wife
I found interesting.



What would you think
of that?

Well, that's...

that's a different case.

It is?


Good morning, ma'am. I need to speak
to the gentleman of the house.

- What is it?
- Monsieur Henri Gauthier-Villars.

Is he in?

- You can speak to me about whatever it is.
- Sorry, ma'am.

- Ah. Sir.
- What is it?

I have a repossession order for two
armchairs, one armoire, one oak desk.

- Let me see the court papers.
- Here you are.

All in order?

Come on.

- Willy!
- It's just bits of wood.

- The armoire's in the bedroom.
- With my clothes in it.

You empty it out.
I'll see to the desk.

Oh, be careful.

You ready?

Yes. Take it away.

So here, it's, like, "It's
a lovely spring morning."

You know,
liven it up a bit.

How about, "Perhaps it's the season.
It's glorious.

The sap is rising
almost indecently."

And then, yeah, here,

the scene with Luce.

I've written, "She brushed
up against me suggestively,

her blue eyes half closed
and her mouth half open."

A little louche.

Louche sells, trust me. We need
more spice, less literature.

I know what men want.
So do the publishers.

- Do you really think they'll take it?
- Yes.

- Ollendorff will go nuts for it.
- As you did on first reading?

Never mind about that. Come on. We've
got to work. Work, work, work.

"Claudine is a girl from a small
village, yet she is all of us.

Feisty, opinionated,
selfish, and sensual..."


"She astounds us
with her moxie, her desires,

and her crimes."


"It took an extraordinary man to
define this modern young woman."

Willy, your book
will change the world.

- To Claudine!
- To Claudine!


All of Paris is saying
your husband is a genius.

- And what do you say?
- He is.

If that book
is anything to go by.

Look at him.

I haven't seen him that
happy in a long time.

Well, I have to say, Willy, we've never had
one fly off the shelves like this before.

Quite a phenomenon.
Everyone's talking about it.

And do you know
who's buying it?

- Young women.
- Really?

I thought that...

That's interesting.

We've also been having inquiries
about theatrical rights.

- Any thoughts?
- Of course.

The theater's
the next logical step.

With as large a stage
as possible.

It's the theater-going public
who will make you rich, Willy.

Maybe even as rich as you one
day, my dear Ollendorff.

What size of print run?

Perhaps 30,000 units.

I'm waiting to see what sort of
advances the booksellers have got.

What return
will that yield?

About three francs per unit.

So, yes, it's a tidy sum.

Madame Willy.

- An honor.
- Pleasure to meet you.

Listen, Claudine at School is
heading for her third printing.


I believe Willy based Claudine
in part on your school days.

Yes, I think I had a little
something to contribute.

Well, I'm very glad your experiences
have borne such wonderful fruit.

Very nice to meet you,

- Gare de Lyon, please.
- Where are we going?

You'll find out.


Is something wrong?

Well, wh-what
do you think is wrong?


we have a success,

and then you imply that I'm
not the true author of it.

- No, I didn't.
- We're holding dynamite here.

We've created something
really powerful,

and if it goes off
at the wrong time,

then it could blow
our bloody heads off.

Ollendorff is
your publisher, Willy.

Yeah, well, Schwob
also said something.

- Schwob is part of the factory.
- People love to talk.

They praise you to your face. Then the moment
you turn around there's knives in your back.

I understand the mentality here.
You don't.

Well, I understand it well enough to
write a book that's the toast of Paris.

Oh, well, why don't you... Go and
just shout it on the streets then.

Tell everybody.
Roll up for the massacre.

I'm sorry.
I'm... I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

Perhaps I overreacted.

Anyway, I...
I have a surprise for you.

What is it?

Well, then it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?

So what's that one?


And that one?

It's a Douglas fir.

How about that one?

It's a weeping chestnut.

I don't know why
you're so keen on nature.

Animals are vile
to each other.

Animals are honest at least.
They never lie.

Yes, my dear. Well, that's
because they don't speak.

Look at that.

Mmm. It's beautiful.

I wonder
who lives there.

I'm thirsty. Let's see
if they'll stand us a drink.

they might shoot us.

Look, wait.
They might be upstairs.

Or deaf.

- Deafened by all this country silence!
- Shh.

I thought
I heard something.

Kiss me.

- Willy, someone might come.
- Good.

Put your hand
in my pocket.

- There's something there for you.
- Willy.


Allow me.

What do you think?

I don't know what I think.

- Whose house is it?
- It's for you.

My love. My heart.

Lest Paris
should drive you mad.

- What?
- It's yours.

You're always talking about how
much you miss the countryside.

I don't believe it.

Somewhere for you
to write and be alone.


where did you get
the money?

I got an advance
from Ollendorff.

- 25,000 francs.
- For what?

For the next book.

- Claudine in Paris.
- Willy, I-I...

- I can't write another Claudine.
- Just write about us.

Our lives. Our friends. Change
the names and make gossip.

- No, Willy, it...
- Let's talk about the details later.

So, do you like it?

It's indescribable.

No such word.

A good writer should be able to
describe anything no matter what.

Is this it?

Your total output
for all these weeks?

I've been doing the house.

All the repairs,
the painting, the tiling.

Planting the garden.

Bugger the garden.
We have a deadline.

Well, it's actually quite difficult
to write out here... alone.

And I don't want to write
another Claudine.

Are you out of your mind? Do you
realize how rare this moment is?

When people
are begging for more?

Here, come with me.

What would the headmaster do if
Claudine had not done her homework?

Willy, don't be silly.

What would he do?

Make her do lines. Put her over
his knee and tan her hide.


I'll start tomorrow.


- Write!
- Willy, let me out!

You will do as I say.
I'll return in four hours.

- I expect to see some pages.
- Willy!

Willy, come on.
This isn't funny.

Willy, you bastard!

You arrogant bastard!
Let me out!


Open the door!

Let me out!

Oh, thank you so much.

Ho-ho! Ho-ho!

and Willy are here.

So they are.

Don't stare.

- Sorry.
- Here?

Yes. Perfect.

Thank you.

Mmm. It's delicious.


Tell me,

how many people
in this park right now

do you think are reading
Claudine in Paris?

- I don't know.
- I'd say at least three-quarters.

And the rest of them
will soon catch up.

What comes here?

Monsieur Willy.
Madame Colette.

- I have a note for you.
- Thank you very much.

Mrs. Raoul Duval.

Oh, Georgie Raoul Duval?

- Yes.
- Wonderful.

Please thank your mistress
and say we accept the invitation

and look forward
to her delightful company.

- Thank you.
- I will.

- Who is she?
- Ah, she's an American.

She's a wayward debutante
from Louisiana

who married a munitions
magnate three times her age.

They sound dull.

He is,
but she's anything but.

We don't have to go
if you don't want to.

No, let's go.

That's so funny.
Did he really say that?

Of course he did.
He's such a colossal snob.

Then Madame de Caillavet happened to mention
that he was only a baron, not a marquise.

"Forgive me, madam,"
he replied,

"but I'm also the duke of
Anjou, the bishop of Coutances,

the prince of Joinville,
of Orléans, and the Dunes.

None of which is of the
slightest importance here."

Oh, look.


That's better.

- Oh, is the evening over already?
- Thank you, monsieur.

I can't bear it.

Oh, Lily, tell the coachman
to go and ready the carriage.

Of course.


I'm sorry, ma'am, but, Monsieur Willy,
may I have your autograph, please?

Of course you can.

Here, I'll even do
a picture for you.

- There you are.
- Thank you so much.

- And yours too, Madame Colette.
- Oh, come now.

No, of course. Spirit
should always be rewarded.

Thank you.

- Good night, my dear.
- Good night.


I live at 74 Rue Goethe if you'd
like to stop by for a nightcap.

I think I'd better retire
for the night.

Oh. Are you sure now?

- Willy?
- We'll play again soon, my dear.

Yes, I hope so, before
my bore of a husband returns.

Well, au revoir.

Au revoir.

You don't want to go?

Well, the invitation
was clearly meant for you.

- Should I?
- Yes, of course.

You don't mind?

Well, it would be hypocritical
of me if I did, wouldn't it?

You can comfort yourself knowing
that I will be at home lying in bed,

thinking of the two of you
in the fondest way possible.

Come on in.

It's a nice place.

Thank you. It's my
little pied-à-terre.

Frederick's not so keen
on the art nouveau pieces,

but I love nature...

and women.

I can see.

I remember in Claudine at School when all
the girls go swimming together at night.

Night is the best time
for a swim.

When I was a girl, I was told that all
the lakes in Louisiana have alligators,

so I never went for a midnight
swim, but I regret it.

When you raise your eyelids,

it's as if you are taking off
all my clothes.

Don't look away.

Look at me.

Look at me looking at you.

You have
the most beautiful teeth.

Like an alligator.

Morning, my dear.

Have you fed Toby Chien?

Oh, I forgot.
I thought Matilde does that.

So how was last night?


What happened?

What do you think

Ah. Well, don't tell me.
I'll, uh...

I'll wait to read about it, when Claudine
develops tender feelings towards a lady friend.

- I'm not writing about it.
- You must. It's prime material.


Will you see her again?


One moment, my darlin'.

- Oh.
- Wonderful. You're... You're here.

I was just passing by.


Well, um...

You'd better come in.

How's the writing going?

It's slow and painful.

- How was your meeting at the bank?
- It was good.

Yeah, it was good.

She's expecting you.

Off to the bank.

I know you're in there!

Georgie, open up!

I was taking a nap.

- Where is he?
- Who?

Colette, what are
you talking about?

Blue cigar
smoke hung in the air.

I marched in and looked
straight in the face of Renaud.

He recoiled, saying, "It was wicked of me.
I'm sorry."

Rezi was there.
Of course she was there...

"Of course she was there,
hurriedly dressing herself.

I shall always remember her
lily-white face decomposing,

as if it were dying
right under my gaze."

It's good.

I know.

I'd suggest you change the line where Renaud
says, "It was wicked of me to do it,"

but I know you won't.

And what do you think that Renaud
would say in those circumstances?

I don't know. Something like, "Why,
my dear, we were waiting for you."

- I don't think she'd believe him.
- Of course not.

But don't you think
she's being hypocritical?

I mean, it's acceptable for
Claudine to sleep with Rezi,

but she doesn't want Renaud
to do the same.

Not behind her back,

The betrayal came
when Renaud lied to her.

Renaud, who swore he
would always be honest.

Well, perhaps he wanted
to tell her, but he was...

of her volcanic jealousy.

Well, then, he was a
coward as well as a liar.

You're very harsh on him.

If not me,
who else?

And Renaud
would never be jealous

if, for example,

Claudine went off with a
young man for a change.

He would find that


- Infidelity for Renaud is a matter of gender?
- Yes, it is.


How long have you known?

About a month.

Well, I must say, I'm impressed by
the way you've handled yourself.

A younger Claudine
would have thrown a fit.

I'm planning on killing
Renaud off in the next one.

What? No, you can't.
No, please, don't.

The hand that holds
the pen writes history.

My husband,

he's just... pure rage.

He wanted to challenge Willy
to a duel.


I put him off. Hopefully
it won't come to that.

You've read it, yes?

I have.

How worried should I be?

It's not blatantly obvious
who is who.

- The names have been changed.
- I don't believe you.

Everyone's chattering about it, saying
it will be salacious in the extreme.

I know that you have no time
for me since our separation,

and I know
I behaved badly.

But I'm begging you.

Ask Willy to change it
before publication.

Please, Colette.

One woman to another.

I can't.

You'd let me suffer?

It isn't just Willy,

It... It's...
It's the book itself.

Willy thinks
it's a work of art.

You had your chance
to be decent,

but now it will be left to
my husband to settle it.

Ollendorff has agreed to a lump sum for
the destruction of the entire print run.


You can't do that.

He's already accepted.

That sly bastard.
You can't. You just can't.

Well, we have,
and that's how it is.

- You duplicitous bitch.
- I had a good teacher.

And like
a true French heroine,

our daughter Claudine
was burnt at the stake.

I said it would be a hot book.

The thing is,
Ollendorff signed the deal,

but he neglected to mention that
he does not own the copyright.

- Because I do.
- Unbelievable.

So it was simply a question of
trotting along to the next publisher,

a second advance,

and the printing presses are
hard at work as we speak.

How do you two do it?

- I think we got very lucky.
- Not at all. We are with the times.

That cuckolded millionaire and his
voracious wife didn't stand a chance.

We've got the wind under our
wings, and I have a little plan

to turn Claudine into the most popular
girl in France, if not the entire world.

She will literally be
a household name.

My name is Claudine.
I live in Montigny.

I was born there in 1884.

- She's not bad.
- I shall probably not die there.

- Montigny is a village, not a town.
- She's terrible.

Its streets, thank
heaven, are not paved.

Yes, you're right.
Th-Thank you very much.

My name is Claudine.
I live in Montigny.

I was born there
in 1884.

I shall probably not
die there.

Montigny is a village,
not a town.

Monsieur Willy. I am the real Claudine.

- And you are...?
- Me?

- My name is Polaire.
- Polaire?

Pride of Algiers.

Look at her.

I mean, look at her.

She instinctively
knows the role.

- She talks about the book as if it was a religion.
- Yes.

She's a Sister of Perpetual Claudine.

It's strange.

She's started copying my
gestures and mannerisms.

- Really?
- Do you think I could act?

You? No.
It'd be a criminal waste.

Waste of what?

This bobbed haircut. I've never
seen anything like it. Have you?

I always imagined Claudine
with long hair.

Well, that was 19th-century Claudine.
This is now.

Look good on you,

Very fetching.

Just think of it. You and
Polaire, the Claudine twins.

- What?
- Yeah. It'd be a publicity gold mine.

- Paris would be all atwitter.
- No. Not in a thousand years.


You look ravishing.

Thank you.

My name is Claudine.

I live in Montigny.

I was born there
in 1884.

I shall probably not
die there.

Of all my novels, this was the one
that would translate to the theater.

I have to give it to you, Willy.
It's a huge success.

But now you're such a celebrity, you'll
become even more insufferable than ever.

That's the plan, Veber. That's the plan.

Oh, he is a tease.

Can you believe
this crowd?

Look. Everyone's here. Look.
There's the marquise de Belbeuf.

Or Missy, as she's known. She only
shows up for very special occasions.

A woman?

Descended from Empress
Josephine on one side,

the czar of Russia
on the other.

That's how she gets away with
the trousers, even in public.



Subtle as ever.

Monsieur Willy.

- How was it?
- You were magnificent.

You were perfection.

Thank you, Monsieur Willy.


You are her.
The living Claudine.

alight here on my knee.

Tetette, you too.

- Willy...
- Come here.

the Claudine trinity.

The father, the mother
and the daughter.

Look over here, please.

Claudine, she is a Midas minx,

her smile mysterious
like a sphinx.

She walks, she talks,
she even thinks.

Claudine, Claudine!

Claudine's a
girl who knows no bounds,

a fox that can't be
caught by hounds.

Exploding star
that makes no sound!

Claudine, Claudine, Claudine!

- Who is this girl in my heart?
- Claudine!

- Who has been right from the start?
- Claudine!

- Who is a bit of a tart?
- Claudine, Claudine, Claudine!


- Who is the girl I admire?
- Claudine!

- Who is the queen of desire?
- Claudine!

Who has set Paris
on fire?

Claudine, Claudine,
Claudine, Claudine!

- Who's wearing a schoolgirl's smock?
- Claudine!

- Who's causing a hell of a shock?
- Claudine!

Who's working
all round the clock?

Claudine, Claudine, Claudine, Claudine,
Claudine, Claudine, Claudine, Claudine!

And when...

in a dream...

I find myself
next to Claudine

and her magical eyes,

all other music...

but the laughter
of her voice.




Hello, Toby Chien.


I'm exhausted.

Oh, me too.

More steps
every time.

But what a night.

We have Paris in the
palm of our hands.

- Willy.
- Yes, my dear?

I wondered
if tonight we might...

It would help me.


My love.

My Claudine.

by the way.

It seems Claudines
are everywhere these days.

Yes. There's even been a Claudine
murderess in Marseilles.

She slit
her husband's throat.

Good for her.

But seriously, you've
done something important.

You've invented
a type.

Willy has, you mean.

I mean you have.

All those young girls between girlhood and
womanhood, you've given them a voice.

You should
own up to it.

Somebody told you?

I didn't need
to be told.

Meeting you is enough.

It's true.

I wrote them.

It's just...

I know.

I hope the path we
walked today was merely the beginning.

I see your face, Missy...
strong, vulnerable.

I've never met
anyone like you.

Polite yet direct.

Reserved yet brave.

A true gentle man.

Willy Gauthier-Villars'

He's busy at the moment.

- Can I take a message?
- It's the Soumaintrain.

Reminds me
of Saint-Sauveur.

Mmm. Oh, yes.

It's delicious.

- When do you go on tour?
- Mmm.

A few weeks.

Some real fleapits too.
It'll be hell.

- Why do you do it?
- He might have some time on Thursday.

I'm addicted. I love every
single dive and wastrel.

You should
come with us.

- Can't do cantomime.
- This isn't cantomime.

This is a new kind
of pantomime.

- I'll put you down for a half an hour.
- Pure action.

The right gesture
is worth a thousand words.

And how do you spell that?

Excuse me.

- Yes?
- Is Monsieur Willy at home?

I was hoping
he could sign my book.

Héon? Another one.

This way,

Tell me
more about pantomime.

Oh, well, it's something I've been
talking about with Christian.

Just an idea right now. We're
thinking of calling it Flesh.

Go on in.

- Monsieur Willy.
- I am he.


Could you sign this?
It's my favorite book.

Hmm. Thank you.

To whom
should I inscribe it?

My name is Meg.

I am the real Claudine.

- How old are you?
- I'm older than I look.

I'm 23.

Well, I'm younger
than I look. I'm 46.

I don't mind.


- Right ahead!
- There it is!

- Come here, Toby.
- Toby, bring the ball.

Can you bring it back? Go, Toby!

Meg's very sweet,
isn't she?

A little overeager,
but there you are.

Reminds me of you
ten years ago.

Nothing like.
But she is very sweet.

- Come on, come on!
- Come on, come on!

What do you think
of Missy?

- Toby, come!
- She's very pleasant.

But she perplexes me.

Words are either masculine or feminine, but
there's no... there's no word for Missy.

Oh, I could think of
one or two.

Well, you do seem content,
for once.

Isn't there
something missing?

What do you mean?

Are you ready, Willy?

Yes, I'm ready.

My name is Claudine.

I live in Montigny.

I was born there
in 1884.

That's right.

I shall probably not
die there.




Come on.


Well done.

You were married once, weren't you?

It was awful.

We don't talk anymore, except
through the auspices of lawyers.

He's embarrassed by me.

If he was married to me,
what does that say about him?

It must have been
very hard for you.

- Putting on trousers, I mean.
- No.

It was entirely natural.

I was
a rather awkward child,

if you can imagine me
in pigtails and a dress.

I never felt like I belonged,

and then one day I tried on my brother's
school uniform, and that was it.

I knew I was home
for the first time.

I've come a long way
since then.

Of course, it's far easier for
me than for a woman of no means,

but I wanted to show
that it can be done.

What about you?

- What about me?
- Well, I dress as a man.

Willy dresses you
as a schoolgirl.

Thank you.

I do know what's going on, you know.
I'm in on the joke.

I don't doubt it
for a second, but...

but are you happy?

Is anyone happy?

Willy is demanding, yes,

he also gives me
a lot of freedom.

It is a long leash
he keeps you on,

but it's a leash

And perhaps
you enjoy that.

- Do you think that's terribly wrong?
- No.

It's entirely
your business, but...

Never mind.

But what?

I wonder if there
will come a time...

when you must decide,

are you Claudine
or are you Colette?

- Hello, Héon.
- Hello, Colette.

What kind of a mood
is he in?

The usual, but worse.

- Hello there.
- Oh, my word.

- What are you wearing?
- They're Missy's.

My dear, I'm surprised you
weren't arrested or beaten up.

You know
the new Claudine book?


Why don't we publish it
under both our names?

That's out of the question.

would never agree to it.

Ollendorff or you?

Tetette, do you really want to kill the
goose that's laying the golden Claudines?

There's very little risk,

Claudine's established.

And... most people know.
Or they suspect.

Nobody knows.

Unless you've been crowing about
it to your lady man friend.

- Don't insult Missy.
- Oh, dear.

She's stripping you of your sense of
humor as well as your common sense.

- That's not fair, Willy.
- Look, we can't risk it.

Especially not with our present finances.
We're completely broke.

We're always broke, and yet you gamble
and fill this place with your antiques.

I bought those from bankrupts
from a debtors' auction.

The car. The racehorse
that went lame.

And you, with your funny clothes and your
hats and the exorbitant mortgage on...

- I need my name on the book.
- No. Willy is a brand.

- And, in any case, women writers don't sell.
- You bastard.

You fat, smug, lazy,
selfish bastard.

This is utter nonsense. If you felt so strongly,
you should never have agreed to it all.

Goddamn you, Willy.

Without the progenitor,
there would be no Claudine.

And prepare.


how the cat breathes.

More animal.

- Ready?
- Yes.

Let's get to work.



Are you going to write


Rehearsing with Wague

Well, don't you think
you ought to?

I should start
locking you up again.

I would scream
the house down.

Look, it's a charming
hobby, Tetette, but...

you're not exactly
Sarah Bernhardt.

So if you can't pull
it off as high art,

you're gonna end up doing the bloody music
halls, and that would be scandalous.

Since when have you considered
scandal to be a bad thing?

That's true.

What does Missy think?

He's all for it. He comes along with
me to Wague's studio all the time.

God, how depressing.

Does she have absolutely no
life of her own whatsoever?

He does the movements with me.
He's rather good.

Do you know, Wague thinks that I'll be
ready to go on the stage in a few weeks.

What do you think, Matilde?

I have to agree with Monsieur Willy, ma'am.
It's not very ladylike.

Thought you were on my side.

So you and the marquise prance around the
studio as potty, mimetic lovers, do you?

Does Missy share your
ambition to go on the stage?

No. He's far too shy.

I've had an idea. It'll be
called The Dream of Egypt.

Paris will never have
seen anything like it.

A scandalous sensation starring Madame
Colette Willy and the Marquise de Belbeuf.

In a common-or-garden
music hall.

Can you imagine? It'll be
a full house every night.

We do perfectly well
with the cancan.

I've seen it half empty
on a weeknight.

- You can vouch for the marquise?
- It's in the bag.

We can even use the Belbeuf
family crest on the poster.

- The press will go wild.
- Maybe so, Willy.

- Do you have backers?
- Only need one.


You're that confident?

- That's a lot of capital.
- Yes.

Yes, I am.


You look

All of our friends
are here.


Some of Missy's former husband's
friends are here too.


Thank you.

- Bravo!
- Boo!

This is a disgrace!


Well done, Colette!
Well done!

Degenerate! Degenerate!

What the hell do you think you're playing
at, you uncultured sack of shit?

You're one of them,
aren't you?

Madame Colette, what are your
impressions after tonight?

My "impressions"?
I'm disgusted.

The people who threw things
tonight are cowards,

and the only reason I didn't get a footstool
in the face is because I dodged it.

Let it go, Colette.

There were some gentlemen
who came for a fight.

We must ignore them
and go on.

So you intend
to continue?

- Yes!
- No!

Those people don't
frighten me at all.

Am I trembling?

I will continue to pursue
this because I want to,

and if Paris won't have
me, then so be it.

I'll go elsewhere
to make a living.

- Amen.
- Amen.

Your father was an old soldier.
A good, solid man.

He was.


I, um...

I saw our creditors

It's horrific. We lost
everything at the Moulin Rouge.

- Not today, Willy.
- Colette.

We need to sell
the country house.

- No.
- We have no choice.


No, Willy.
You can't do that.

Well, morally, yes,
I need your permission.

But... legally,
well, the house is in my name.

What do you think?

You need to divorce
him, Gabri, and soon.

Sido, please.

You ask for a full audit of his accounts.
Willy is a mess.

A drinker. A gambler. He's
a broken man, Gabrielle.

Don't say that.

He'll hold you back.

Gabri, you have to
use your own gifts.

You know, just...

write something new
under your own name.

Writing's a nightmare.

All the hours I spent with
him breathing down my neck.

The turn of the key in the lock.
The ache in my fingers.

- I'm done with it.
- Oh, no, Gabrielle, just...

I'm going on tour, Sido, with
Wague, for the next six months.

The contracts are being drawn up now.
We're doing a new piece.

- Get out of it. You have to.
- I'm going to do it.

What did I miss?

Women. Knives.

All very Greek.



- Bravo!
- Bravo!


Tell me something.

The sole rights to the
Claudines, Ollendorff.

What would you give me
for them?

Are you serious?
All of them?


The sole rights
in perpetuity?

Make me an offer.

We had a cancellation in Limoges next
week, so I've got four days off.

Will you be coming
back to Paris?


I have to pack up the house
at Besançon.

- Will he be there?
- Missy. I've had a long day.

- Can we just...?
- Of course.

I'm sorry.

You know...

you don't have to worry
about Willy.

You don't even need to earn your own
money or stay in places like this.

I could arrange

Too much of my life
has been arranged.

And I like
earning my own money.

I love you.
That's all.

Thank you.

That's not the traditional
response, but I'll take it.

For now.

You know, I've been thinking about
this new craze for moving pictures.

Do you think we could adapt
Claudine for a cine-play?

God, do you never stop?

We could write a completely fresh story.
Claudine by the Sea.

No. Adapt one
of the old ones.



Oh, yes.

How sad.

I've missed you.

- No, you haven't.
- Of course I have.

Your ambiguous smile, your lightning
intelligence, your capricious joys.

Even your brief
but violent furies.

How's the book going
with Meg?


All spice
and no literature.

She's not you.
She never will be.

What are we doing, Willy?

Are we finished?

I don't know.

You can't.

- Why can't I?
- Because I love you.

Because you're the only
woman I could ever love.

And because you're at your most
brilliant when you're with me.

Am I?


You know you are.

You still need
your headmaster.

Come in.

May I get in with you,


Get in.

Can't sleep.

Too quiet.


Silence. It's
terrifying, isn't it?

No. I love it.

Of course you do,
country girl.

Is everything
all right?

There's something
weighing on my mind.


I don't sleep with Meg

I mean, we sleep, but...

I can't...

Doesn't matter.

It does.

Matters very much.



- Colette, how was yours tonight?
- Not bad.

- And are you going out after?
- Maybe.

Madame Willy.

- Ooh-la-la.
- Monsieur Ollendorff. Hello.

I'm here in Lille
on some family business,

and I was delighted when I found
out you were here with the play.

- Oh. Well, it's very kind of you to come and see it.
- Quite a spectacle.

I was thinking if you were free, I'd like
to take you and the marquise to dinner.

Thank you. I'm always
up for a free feed.

in such august company.

Mmm, it's the very least
I can do for you, Colette,

after all the money
you've made for me.

And will continue to make.

I wish I'd been able to give
Willy a better settlement.

But one can only pay
what one can afford.

I'm not quite sure
I understand.

For the Claudines.
The rights to the Claudines.

Willy sold you
the Claudines?

Yes. All of them.

- He sold you the Claudines?
- Absolutely.

I'm sorry.
I thought he...

How much did he get
for them?

I am most insulted by
the implication of your letter.

We have transacted business
for five years...


I need to speak to you

I'll see you later.

Willy. Colette.

- What is it?
- Five thousand francs.

Don't be melodramatic. I was
trying to keep the house for you.

- I gave you the house.
- We still owed the bank.

You could have sold Veber's
novels, some of your other trash.

You just did it to stick the knife in me.
Didn't you?

Didn't you?

I wouldn't have got anything for
Veber's, or Schwob's, or anyone else's.

- Now, please, calm down.
- Why? Why should I calm down?

Oh, you hurt and you hurt
and you hurt,

and you think that by saying
"I'm a man, that's what men do,"

you clear it all away.

What you did was not just
hateful, it was stupid.

Now we'll have no say
over our books,

and we'll never make
another penny from them.

- We can write some more.
- No, never. Never again. Never!

You're overreacting. This was
purely a business decision.

Isn't that what our whole
marriage has been?

Wasn't I the best
investment you ever made?

No dowry, but my God, she
can write for her keep!

If you were an investment, you
were a highly speculative one.

I paid you back
a thousand times.

Please, just stop it! Just
stop talking about money!

You were my ideal,
my love, my obsession.

You killed our child,

Those books...

they were all we had.

And now they're gone and
there's no chance of repair.

- My darling, Claudine was only...
- Don't.

Don't tell me
what Claudine was.

I am the real Claudine.

Everything I thought and
felt went into those books.

They were me.

My childhood,
my memories, my opinions.


And when I think of
the hours I spent alone,

slaving away for you,

churning out scenes
just to try and please you,

I am so ashamed of myself
for that.

And yet I knew
and you knew...

that I was bound
to do it.

You found me
when I knew nothing.

You molded me to your own
designs, to your desires.

And you thought that
I could never break free.

Well, you're wrong.

Claudine is dead now. She's gone.
You betrayed her.

And I...

I have outgrown her.


Please, I...

I was so s...

I was stupid. I...

I panicked. I...

- Please forgive me.
- Good-bye, Willy.

No, Gabrielle.
Gabrielle, please, no.


My love, stop.

I forbid you!

That was my note.

That's mine.
And that's mine.

That's mine.

It was a collaboration.

She really has a nerve.

And these prove it.

Would you do me a favor,

Will you destroy these,

- Are you sure?
- Definitely.

Burn them.

Incinerate them.

All right, Willy.

I'm going out.


- Thirty minutes to curtain up.
- Thanks, Wague.

After two years
of music hall and theater,

I'm still the same,

face to face
with that painted mentor

who gazes at me from the other
side of the looking glass

with deep-set eyes under lids
smeared with purplish greasepaint.

I know she is
going to speak to me.

She is going to say, "Is that you
there all alone under that ceiling,

booming and vibrating
under the feet of the dancers?

Why are you there all alone?
And why not somewhere else?"

Yes, this is
the dangerous, lucid hour.

Now, whenever I despair,

I no longer expect my end,

but some bit of luck,

some commonplace
little miracle which,

like a glittering link,

will mend again
the necklace of my days.

Colette! Colette! Colette!

Colette! Colette! Colette! Colette! Colette!
Colette! Colette! Colette! Colette!

Subtitles by explosiveskull