Colette (2018) Script

Gabrielle?

Gabrielle, wake up.

No, let me sleep.

Come on, Gabrielle.

What time is it? Seven o'clock.

Willy's coming today.

Well.


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.

Pretty.

Good-bye.

Sido, I'm going for a walk.

Change your dress first.

I'll stay on the path. Change it.

Darling, 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.

Sido. 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, Matilde?

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.

Willy.

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, actually.

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?

Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye.

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?


That's 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.

No.

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.

Schwob.

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?

Mm-hmm.

He's made you one of his ghosts already?

Just letters.

You're fastidious. Exacting.

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, Monna.

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.

Willy!

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, Gabri?

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.

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

I must get used to marriage.

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 anymore.

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?

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, restaurants...

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.

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.

And?

And... we won't be able to get it published.

That's the shame of it.

What's wrong with it?

Honestly?

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...

There's 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.

Jeanne, may I present Colette?

Madame.

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.

Nonsense. 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, Gaston?

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, darling.

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.

Jeanne?

Yes.

What would you think of that?

Well, that's... that's a different case.

It is?

Perhaps.

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..."

Ooh!

"She astounds us with her moxie, her desires, and her crimes."

Oh!

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

Willy, your book will change the world.

To Claudine! To Claudine!

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.

Excellent.

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, madame.

Gare de Lyon, please. Where are we going?

You'll find out.

Hup.

Is something wrong?

Well, wh-what do you think is wrong?

What?

Finally 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?

Lime.

And that one?

It's a Douglas fir.

How about that one?

Chestnut. 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.

Willy, 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.

What?

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.

So...

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.

Correct.

I'll start tomorrow.

Willy.

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! Willy, you bastard!

You arrogant bastard! Let me out!

Willy!

Open the door!

Let me out!


Oh, thank you so much.

Ho-ho! Ho-ho!

Colette and Willy are here.

So they are.

Don't stare.

Sorry. Here?

Yes. Perfect.

Thank you.

Mmm. It's delicious.

Mmm.

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.

There.

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.

Well?

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.

Well, 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?

Interesting.

What happened?

What do you think happened?

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.

No.

Will you see her again?

Possibly.

One moment, my darlin'.

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

I... I was just passing by.

Yes?

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.

Georgie, I know you're in there!

Georgie, open up!

Colette, 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, no.

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... frightened 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 unacceptable.

Oh.

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

Huh.

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.

What?

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, Georgie.

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.

What?

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, collecting 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?

Polaire. Pride of Algiers.

Look at her.

I mean, look at her. She's...

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, actually.

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.

Evening.


Colette. 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.

Fascinating.

Stunning.

Subtle as ever.

Monsieur Willy.

How was it? You were magnificent.

You were perfection.

Thank you, Monsieur Willy.

Colette?

You are her. The living Claudine.

Polaire, alight here on my knee.

Tetette, you too.

Willy... Come here.

Behold 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!

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!

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, forgetting all other music... but the laughter of her voice.

Claudine!

Claudine!

Bravo.

Hello, Toby Chien. Hello.

Hello.

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.


Mmm.

My love.

My Claudine.


Congratulations, 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' residence.

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, please.

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.

Hello.

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.

Whoa!

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. I'm...

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.

Forty-seven.

Forty-eight.

Forty-nine.

Come on.

Fifty.

Well done.

You were married once, weren't you?

Yes. 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, but... he also gives me a lot of freedom.

It is a long leash he keeps you on, but it's a leash nevertheless.

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?

Yes.

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

That's out of the question.

Ollendorff 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, surely.

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.

Breathe.

Remember how the cat breathes.

More animal.

Ready? Yes.

Let's get to work.

And...

And...

Are you going to write today?

No.

Rehearsing with Wague later.

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.

Myself.

You're that confident?

That's a lot of capital. Yes.

Yes, I am.

Meg.

You look beautiful.

All of our friends are here.

Yes.

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

Here.

Thank you.

Bravo! Boo!


This is a disgrace!

Bravo!

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.

Look. 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.

Was.

I, um...

I saw our creditors yesterday.

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.

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.

Montmarault!


Bravo!

Bravo! 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?

Yes.

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?

No.

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 everything.

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.

Perhaps.

Catch.

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?

Terribly.

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?

Yes.

You know you are.

You still need your headmaster.

Come in.

May I get in with you, Gabri?

Yes.

Get in.

Can't sleep.

Too quiet.

Listen.

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.

What?

I don't sleep with Meg anymore.

I mean, we sleep, but...

I can't...

Doesn't matter.

It does.

Matters very much.

Bravo!

Bravo!

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.

Especially 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...

Tetette.

I need to speak to you alone.

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, Willy.

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.

Everything.

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.

Please, I...

I was so s...

I was stupid. I...

I panicked. I...

Please forgive me. Good-bye, Willy.

No, Gabrielle. Gabrielle, please, no.

Gabrielle!

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, Héon?

Will you destroy these, please?

Are you sure? Definitely.

Burn them.

Incinerate them.

All right, Willy.

I'm going out.


Shit.


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! Colette!