Critic Consensus: Led by an outstanding performance from Emmanuelle Devos, Violette is a rewarding, bracingly honest look at social mores and the literary life.
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Critic Reviews for Violette
She [Emmanuelle Devos] gives a tremendous performance, somehow managing to turn an emotion as ugly as self-loathing into something beautiful to behold.
"Violette" demonstrates how suffering produces great art, and that the artist isn't the only one who suffers for it.
It's a perfect approach to Leduc, whose work is so grounded in the messy, fleshy realities of life, it scandalized critics with its frank treatment of taboo subjects such as lesbianism and incest.
A literate, leisurely and lovely telling of one woman's attempt to find what Virginia Woolf famously called "a room of one's own."
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 [its] shaggy, uneven plotting.
Movies about the literary process can prove problematic. The act of writing is a solitary one. Yet "Violette" mostly avoids the pitfalls associated with movies about writers by limiting the scenes of Violette scribbling furiously in a notebook.
Audience Reviews for Violette
Emmanuelle Devos is good; Sandrine Kiberlain is even almost unrecognizable. The film, however, is rather flat.
I'll say nothing fancy or ambiguous: "Violette" is one of the best French ismovies I've ever seen, right up there with "Place Vendome," "Beneath the Sand," "Rosetta," "Read My Lips," "Brotherhood of the Wolf," "La Nuit de Varennes." The story is about a woman who, abused and neglected as a child, is frantic for love. That is the story, not about a writer, bookworm, intellectual. She is intensely needy for love. This is her story; it's not the story of the ambition of an "engagee intellectual." This person, Violette, is passionate and must come to grips with her own obsessions... It is not the story of a "friendship." Such a boring subject is far from this; neither is it a "Simone de Beauvoir story: either. It is strictly about Violette, always frantic and at lose ends... Her lesbianism, which is not at all shocking, is only incidental to the child's quest for love, which is and is the subject from the very first seconds of the film until the end...
During the occupation, Violette Leduc(Emmanuelle Devos) works in the black market in order to support her and her lackadaisical friend Maurice(Olivier Sy) in the country. That does not come without its risks as she also spends three days in jail while Maurice idles back at the farmhouse they share. While he placates her anger with a composition notebook she uses to write her thoughts, he makes a break for it. The next time she hears about him is in Paris when he is in deeper trouble but she ignores him in favor of a novel by Simone de Beauvoir(Sandrine Kiberlain) about a menage a trois which inspires Violette to write her own book to give to Simone to publish. "Violette" is a remarkably assured and multi-layered movie. Ironically, it takes its time in recalling the history of somebody who could not stop moving. It definitely helps that Emmanuelle Devos is excellent in portraying such a complex, and at times, difficult person. Violette is also one of several writers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Genet(Jacques Bonnaffe) at this period of time who were challenging the more conservative elements of French society through their writing and personal stories, sort of the French Beats if you will but with feminist voices included. In general, this movie also serves as a valuable reminder of how difficult it is for writers to be recognized in any time period, making encouragement one of the most valuable gifts they can receive.
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