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Film Review: ‘Violette’ Fueled By Passion

Portrait Of Early French Feminist Writer Is A Showcase For Actress Emmanualle Devos

Sandrine Kiberlain as Simone de Beauvoir and Emmanuelle Devos as Violette Led...

Credit: Adopt Films

Above: Sandrine Kiberlain as Simone de Beauvoir and Emmanuelle Devos as Violette Leduc in "Violette."

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "Violette."


If the new "Transformers: Age of Extinction" is too big, loud, and empty-headed, then turn to "Violette" (opening Friday at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters), a smart, literate, French film, for relief.

French filmmaker Martin Provost centers his films around female characters. In both "Seraphine" and "Violette," the women are real French artists. But while the painter Séraphine de Senlis languished in a mental institution, Violette Leduc successfully raged against society through her books.

Violette Leduc (played by Emmanuelle Devos) was born out of wedlock at the beginning of the 20th century. She channels her anger into her writing and then has the good fortune to cross paths with author Simone DeBeauvoir.

Companion Viewing

"Julia" (1977)

"My Brilliant Career" (1979)

"Waiting for the Moon" (1987)

"Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994)

"Read My Lips" (2001)

"The Hours" (2002)

"Seraphine" (2008)

The film belongs to actress Emmanuelle Devos (also brilliant in "Read My Lips"). She devours the screen as the early feminist writer who tackled subjects others were afraid to touch. The film is divided into chapters, each focused on a different person in her life. Throughout it all, Leduc hungers for love and emotional connection while pursuing her own personal freedom with ferocious passion.

Provost provides enticing samples of Leduc’s writing but conveys much of her emotional story without words. So a key moment with her mother is summed up by a hand slipping out of her grasp, and her eagerness to meet DeBeauvoir is captured in the sound of her footsteps running up the stairs.

The film also reminds us of both the romance and the grind of writing a novel by hand. “Violette” offers a passionate and intelligent alternative to the Hollywood summer blockbuster.

"Violette" is in French with English subtitles and is unrated. Watch the trailer.

Trailer: 'Violette'

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