Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

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Colette was arguably the most famous female writer in France. She is perhaps best known for a novella, Gigi, which was made into a film starring Maurice Chevalier and a stage play in 1944. She was an author of many memoirs and short stories in addition to being a stage performer.

Here in a striking biopic by Wash Westmoreland (“Still Alice”), Keira Knightley plays the charismatic writer with the dark flashing eyes. The setting is Paris in the 1890s and Colette falls for the pompous know-it-all writer and editor Willy (Dominic West) who treats Colette like an exotic bird in the cage and she grows to resent it.

On a whim Colette writes in her notebook and Claudine, an unapologetic female risk taker is born. Willy locks Colette in her room to complete chapter after chapter. The Claudine series took Paris by surprise (there were Claudine uniforms and Claudine soap.)

Willy takes the credit.

This is a lively suspenseful biography, propelled forward by Keira Knightley and Dominic West. Willy is a sophisticated gadabout creep and Colette waits for the day to break free from the narcissistic dandy.

Colette is struck by Missy (Denise Gough) a cross-dressing noblewoman and actor. Missy urges Colette to break free, divorce Willy and become an artist, serious with intention.

The drama in the mode of a risque Masterpeice Theatre has a real sense of time and place, brimming with color. Knightley’s Colette has hunger as well as heart and she authentically portrays her, one brave woman, decades before Anais Nin.

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