Violette Screen 8 articles

Violette

2013

Violette Poster
  • Normally, casting Devos (Wild Grass, Kings & Queen, Read My Lips) in the title role would guarantee a certain amount of interest and empathy, as she’s a superb actor who radiates inner strength. As Leduc, however, she gives perhaps her worst performance to date, emphasizing the writer’s insecurity at the expense of her fierce intelligence. It’s not her fault. The screenplay, co-written by Provost (Séraphine) with Marc Abdelnour and René De Ceccatty, has Leduc constantly bemoaning her fate.

  • Violette takes a major risk in using such bold stokes to characterize its titular subject, with Emmanuelle Devos working hard to uglify herself both inside and out, but the result is hypnotic, as Provost's vision of LeDuc is both a repellant and cannily sympathetic one, a figure forever on the verge of collapsing under the weight of her insatiable desire.

  • Leduc is unpleasant almost to the point of being detestable: a liar, a stalker, a whiner so grating that at one point playwright Jean Genet (Jacques Bonnaffé), himself a strong personality, calls her a “drama queen.” But in Devos’ hard-charging performance, she’s also fascinating, and that’s all a film requires.

  • Since the key themes... give us plenty to think about, Devos and Provost are careful to register this woman’s eruptive passions but not to let them run away with the movie. The result is a film whose poise and intelligence becomes ever more apparent on subsequent reflection, since Devos’ superb performance burns with controlled intensity but never overshadows the purposeful bigger picture of one woman’s epoch-defying battle to be at peace with herself.

  • Put into the wrong hands, a movie about these characters might have easily descended into kitsch — imagine a gayer, more transgressive “Midnight in Paris” — but as he ably demonstrated in “Seraphine,” Provost is a small master of tact and restraint, and even when Leduc turns her own life into high theater, the movie itself never overplays its hand.

  • The great accomplishment of Violette is its sober presentation of Leduc’s frequently intractable nature, unruliness that the film honors without sentimentalizing or solemnizing it.

  • Director Martin Provost does well by the real labor of writing, eliciting superb internal pain from Emmanuelle Devos. Also given sensitive expression is frustrated lust (Sandrine Kiberlain plays frosty Simone de Beauvoir, mentor and love object), along with a hefty dose of self-hatred and mommy issues. It’s a movie about coming to peace with solitude, leagues beyond most biopics.

  • When you first see Violette in Martin Provost’s handsome, intelligently absorbing and stirring biographical portrait she’s sneaking through the dark with a suitcase full of black-market goods, which creates quite the vivid, existential snapshot.

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