So, because the annotations for every WS episode take far more time than they’re worth, I’ve (Write Sweater Jesse) decided that I will pivot into discussing the Episode’s Notes in a more macro and holistic way. As opposed to just listing all the dumb things we talk about, I’m going to instead attempt to extend an expanded discussion of a few of the most pivotal references, ideas, concepts, or whatever else the episode surfaces.
Not only will this alleviate the burden of the episode annotations, but it will also force me to write a bit, which, ya know, is the whole point of this whole podcastical adventure.
Throughout Episode Ten, me and Jennifer talked in length about the 2018 movie Colette, starring Keira Knightley. The movie itself was fine. Like, capital ‘F’ fine in the sense that it doesn’t do anything particularly interesting, but it also doesn’t exist anywhere in the realm of bad.
Ostensibly, a flick about writers and writing, Colette was more concerned with telling the story of a writer (who I guess we were all supposed to already know about) and the way she interacted with cultural changes in turn-of-the-century France. Personally, I had no issue with this, at its best Colette was breezy and fun, and at its worse pleasantly ignorable, but it was hard not to compare the film to another 2018 movie, The Favourite.
In addition to its attention to costuming, for me, The Favourite attempts to occupy the same psychic cinematic space as Colette. I guess both could be called period pieces, but I don’t think I’ve ever really known what a period piece is. Jk, that’s a dumb thing to say, of course I know what a period piece is. What I suppose I’m trying to say, is that, just like with musicals, fantasy, or other movie genres that I haven’t watched tons of, I am not so familiar with period pieces that I can understand their rules, and by extension transgressions, in any intimate or instinctual way.
But, does that skew the way that I enjoy or consume both these flicks? Yes, it probably does. Pointing out that The Favourite is a more artistically (or whatever) successful movie than Colette doesn’t really get me anywhere considering that that opinion is basically accepted as a pop cultural fact. What the comparing the two films does do potentially is open up a space to discuss the formal attributes of both pieces and look at the way that Lanthimos’ direction physically fractures the audiences’ view in a way that distances the viewer in a pretty simple-to-digest Brechtian way.
Then again, maybe I do understand the period piece just fine enough to talk about Colette, The Favourite, or whatever else. I remember seeing A Knight’s Tale as a kiddo and realizing pretty simply that that flick was weird. And, more recently I caught a screening of the director’s cut of Amadeus and didn’t need too much coaching to understand how uniquely bizarre and special that movie is.
Early in our discussion of Colette, I mention that the cast’s lack of French accents reminded me of The Death of Stalin, in where Tambor (sad face), Buscemi, and a bunch of other white guys talk in their own accents instead of adopting Russian accents. An Armando Iannuci joint, the dialog of Death of Stalin is too fast and loud to truly bother with accents getting in the way, a problem I can’t imagine happening with Colette (that is, other than the southern gal who’s Foghorn Leghorn accent seriously almost broke everything).
“But what does any of this have to do with writing?” you might be saying. “Amadeus, Death of Stalin, The Favourite, and A Knight’s Tale aren’t about writing but Colette does, regardless to what you might know or not know about period pieces”, you might also be saying. Of course, you’re correct to have said that. Thank you. (Except, but actually, truly tho, Chaucer is in A Knight’s Tale. Sooooo.)
In the episode, Jennifer and I talk primarily about how Colette’s artistic efforts were sullen by the actions of her sleazy ol’ husband, as well as how the authorial relationship of “Willy in Real Life” (imagine his head on some pancakes) with “Writer Willy” is complicated by the fact that much of his work was ghost written.
To that second point, talking about writing does not always have to include a discussion of authorship, but with the way capitalism, branding, monetizing, and the ever-expanding horizon of intellectual (psychic, creative, emotional) exploitation have become primary to any American action, it’s actively ignorant to discuss writing and authorship as if they’re any different anymore.
With Willy’s “writing factory”, as it is referred to unironically throughout Colette, the entire idea of authorial intent is undermined from the very start. The intent behind “Willy” has nothing to do with aesthetic satisfaction and that’s totally fine. Not everything always needs to be something, sometimes a thing just needs to be made to be made. Needs to be made to be sold, and that’s fine.
If anything, the fantasized factory that “Willy” was operating was something close to a utopian model of consumeristic creation. The issue, as shown in the flick, arises when facades arise that pervert the operation of the factory. In this case, as with so many other institutions the perverting reasons for are gender and racial, being that Willy actively exploits the creations of women and people of color for the sake of promoting Willy.
That’s probably not too controversial of a reading of Colette, but it does work to display how narratives of worker exploitation have become so primal to modern storytelling, as well as show how any discussions of public writing are forced to collapse the distinctions between writing and authorship into a unit that represents a repository of branding, selling, and whatever else.
But, when it comes down to it, Colette wasn’t bad and wasn’t good. Check it out my dudes.