Sunday, February 08, 2009

Colette and Audrey. Michelle and Kathy

I'm well into the novel Chéri, the movie version of which will premiere in just two days at Berlinale. It's a great read. There's exquisite descriptions of complicated emotions and intriguing relationships. There's also an unembarrassed sensuality to the material. If they can capture the nuances and the texture on film, it'll be quite a good sit.

I didn't know much about French novelist Colette (seated spectacularly, left) prior to the news about this movie and I blame that on Gigi the movie which is based on her most famous novel. I'd never read it because I didn't like the movie. I figured she wasn't for me. How wrong I was! The more I learn about Colette, the more I love. Not only am I instantly on board with her writing but then to learn that she was once a performer at the Moulin Rouge?!? Add in lesbian love affairs, the ability to frequently scandalize/offend the public and end up hugely celebrated anyway (enormous appealing!) and top it off with a crucial role in making Audrey Hepburn a star (she was a virtual unknown when Colette demanded she play "Gigi" on stage which led directly to Audrey's Oscar winning coming out ball in Roman Holiday)... well, in short, she's swoon worthy.


The romantic relationship she penned in Chéri is between the 49 year old Léa (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her closest friend's (Kathy Bates) gorgeous and callow 20something son, Chéri (Rupert Friend) but it begins when he is only a teenager. Before you start thinking about The Reader controversy all over again, the better modern film perspective might be --psychologically speaking and at least in the beginning of the relationship -- the Amber Waves / Dirk Diggler pairing in Boogie Nights. The older woman's childless maternal instincts seem to be all entangled with her sexual ones while the younger man's feelings are opaque and possibly skin deep. Who knows how far the film or any of the actors will take the material but it could be something.

I'm especially eager to see Bates and Pfeiffer play this oddly close but not at all close friendship.
They had known each other for twenty-five years. Theirs was the hostile intimacy of light women, enriched and then cast aside by one man, ruined by another: the tetchy affection of rivals stalking one another's first wrinkle or white hair.


Theirs was the friendship of two practical women of the world, both adepts at the money games; but one of them a miser, and the other a sybarite. These bonds count. Rather late in the day, a stronger bond had come to link them more closely: Chéri.
We should be hearing opinions on the film quite shortly now. Two time Oscar nominee Director Stephen Frears has led six actresses to nominations in the past (for The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons, Mrs. Henderson Presents and The Queen). Will Bates, Pfeiffer and Frears all head back to the Kodak theater in February 2010? It's too early to predict and entirely foolish to presume but that won't stop the hoping.
*

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, I'm gonna put you on the spot and ask you to choose between the beauty of Michelle Pfeiffer and Audrey Hepburn.

If both of their faces were in danger and you had to save one of them, who would you choose?

NATHANIEL R said...

duh!

Hayden said...

You mean you'd let the scary Slumdog guy turn Audrey into a blind, disfigured street singer?

NATHANIEL R said...

i refuse to live in Slumdog's world. That world ends on February 23rd anyway.

Karl said...

I picked up Cheri recently based on a tantalizing biographical sketch of Colette in Edmund White's little nonfiction book about Paris, The Flaneur. He calls her 'quite simply the most talented writer of her epoch, male or female'. He also gives great biographical dish, like the fact that she once 'opened a chain of beauty salons (from which her clients emerged looking fifteen years older, according to writer Natalie Barney).' Thanks for whetting my appetite for more Cheri.

Alex in Movieland said...

I love the art direction and costumes from that photo. Just look at that animal skin from under Kathy's feet. Oh, that lucky bastard that leopard.

NATHANIEL R said...

i don't know... is it really great to be killed and skinned just so you can be under (Bates) foot?

I mean if you're into submission maybe.

Anonymous said...

CHERI is an amazing book!

par3182 said...

They had known each other for twenty-five years. Theirs was the hostile intimacy of light women, enriched and then cast aside by one man, ruined by another: the tetchy affection of rivals stalking one another's first wrinkle or white hair.

They had known each other for eighteen years. Theirs was the hostile intimacy of actresses, enriched and then cast aside by one role, stolen by the other: the tetchy affection of rivals who had both played Frankie.

Wayne B. said...

I'd rather be under Pfeiffer's foot myself. Ooh wouldn't it be awesome if Sofia Coppola directed a bio-pic of Colette? Her story sounds interesting enough for the big screen.

NATHANIEL R said...

eeek... WAYNE B. what a g-r-e-a-t idea. Get that to Coppola's people pronto!

Faux said...

Nathaniel,

I have heard rumors from Berlin, the Silver Bear for Best Actress, at the moment, seems to be Brenda Blethyn or Michelle Pfeiffer, but the frontrunner right now is
Blethyn, who performs a chilling portrait of a mother seeking her daughter in the wake of 7/7 in "London River", by director Rachid Bouchareb.

Daniel said...

Michelle Pfeiffer is one of the most underestimated actress in Hollywood. Give that woman an Oscar. Or a man like me. Or both. Yeah, definately both. :)

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for a great biography on Colette check out "Secrets of the Flesh" by: Judith Thurman. It's fantastic! I adore Colette's writing, The Pure and The Impure is one of my favorites and the Claudine series...