Though its subject was real, the French biopic "Violette" feels more like a thought experiment: What if a brilliant and daring female artist was just as self-indulgent and self-pitying as the vilest of her male counterparts?
Director Martin Provost's epic portrait of novelist Violette Leduc is so compelling, even thrilling, in its frank depictions of female sexual voracity, professional egotism and twisted variants on the Electra complex that it's easy to overlook his film's shaggy, uneven plotting.
Simone de Beauvoir (
When Violette quickly realizes that the admiration of France's intelligentsia won't pay the bills, she begins to throw tantrums, once screaming at a bookstore clerk for not carrying her first novel. To support herself as a writer, she lies, manipulates, even lets a close friend die. And yet it's undeniable that her ugly struggles created not just beauty, but also a singular heroism.
No MPAA rating; in French with English subtitles.
Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes.