Bizarre, Fascinating Story of a Writer

After seeing Keira Knightly in The Nutcracker and The Four Realms I wasn’t excited about seeing her in Colette. But she does much better in her role in this adult film than she does in the former one for children.

Colette is the story of true-to-life author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette and her writer husband Willy (Dominic West). The pair had a strange relationship. Willy moved in well-known social circles in Paris while Gabrielle (as she was known) was a ‘country bumpkin’. Willy wasted money on gambling, women and entertaining and was constantly scrabbling to put out a best-seller to cover his debts. To do this he gathered a team of people who wrote for him. Gabrielle was drawn into this stratagem and this was how her writing was ‘discovered’.

Colette – as she became known – wrote about her own youthful experiences – with some poetic licence – and Claudine the character was born. In the mid-1800s the ‘novel’ started to become popular but was considered something only women would read. Willy was at first disparaging of his wife’s writing but in desperation he submitted the manuscript to his publisher under his name and the book was a hit. Colette continued to write book after successful book in the Claudine series.

As Willy took the accolades Colette stood back and watched. Sounds like Big Eyes you say, the story of painter Margaret Keane who painted well-received pictures while her husband took the credit. But, no, Colette is different. Colette herself was complicit in the arrangement and didn’t try to wrest control from Willy – at least not for many years. The two worked together to make Claudine successful, which also involved them bizarrely ‘living out’ Claudine in order to make the writing authentic. Amongst other things, to do this, Willy took up with a mistress, and Colette experimented with lesbian sex.

As Claudine the story matured and discovered its identity, so too did Colette the person. While Willy remained the immature, self-centred individual that he always was, Colette outgrew him.

Colette is a fascinating – if weird – story of a writer who became enormously successful in her own right. The film opens in South African cinemas on 7 December 2018.


The Imitation Game will possibly be the best movie of 2015

A review by Brenda Daniels

With 2015 only a month old it might be a little early to say this, but here goes: if you watch one movie this year, watch The Imitation Game. The film tells the fascinating story of how mathematician Alan Turing helped to crack the German Enigma code machine during World War II. His work had enormous ramifications for the war and beyond, forming the foundations for the development of the modern computer.

His struggle to relate on an interpersonal level, and to find acceptance in a society which outlawed homosexuality, forms a backdrop to the main plot. This latter is portrayed with sensitivity and levity, leaving the viewer with nothing but sympathy for the brilliant but lonely Turing.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the part of Turing with such finesse and depth and is eminently worthy of his Best Actor Oscar nomination.

The plot is an exciting one with Turing and his team (including Keira Knightley as the intelligent, pragmatic Joan Clarke) working against the clock. As this group of Britain’s “best mathematicians” experiment with Turing’s code-cracking machine, soldiers and civilians on the front line are dying.

MI6 agent Stewart Menzies, a character played by Mark Strong, introduces the element of espionage or game playing, a theme which runs throughout the film, even after the code is cracked.

The year 2015 marks 70 years since the end of World War II (visit World War II 70th Anniversary on Facebook). Perhaps this accounts for the timing of this war-time release. In any event, if The Imitation Game is anything to go by, certain aspects of this story were only recently revealed.

Viewed from the vantage point of seven decades later, The Imitation Game has much to teach us about war and human nature.

The Imitation Game released in South Africa on 23 January and is currently showing at Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau.


Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. He has been nominated for Best Actor for the 2015 Oscars. Photo: Creative Commons

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. He has been nominated for Best Actor for the 2015 Oscars. Photo: Creative Commons