Emmanuelle Devos (Kings & Queen) stars in this gorgeously rendered biopic of the acclaimed French novelist Violette Leduc, whose intense and fraught relationship with Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kimberlain) fuelled her fearless, nakedly confessional writing.
Simone de Beauvoir. Her name summons up an entire universe. Feminism. Sexual freedom. Post-World War II France in the grip of intellectual fervour. The Second Sex. And it also summons up the names of those who passed through her life: Sartre, Camus, Merleau-Ponty. This heady world is the setting for a remarkable film about one of de Beauvoir's friends, acolytes, admirers, and fellow travellers, the relatively unknown Violette Leduc. Leduc was in many ways as much of a pioneer as de Beauvoir, but while fame, success, and fortune fell relatively easily to the latter, Leduc found herself on another path, struggling throughout much of her life with poverty, indifference to her work, and psychological issues.
In a brilliantly conceived, finely honed and fiercely etched portrait of Leduc, Martin Provost leads us through chapters depicting her tumultuous life, each centred on a person, a place or the title of one of her books. We begin in wartime France, with Violette eking out an existence in the countryside with a writer, Maurice Sachs, who urges his volatile houseguest to take up the pen. Discovering a copy of one of de Beauvoir's books, she is on her way to befriending the famous — and famously severe — author, and writing her own remarkably honest and profoundly moving books. Her love for de Beauvoir was a driving force in her life, and her feelings for her mentor were both intellectual and sexual.
The film is gorgeously shot, beautifully
acted by Emmanuelle Devos as Leduc and
Sandrine Kiberlain as de Beauvoir, and
directed with economy, grace, and distinct
control. This is not a biopic in the traditional
sense, but a stirring and profound, deep and
sympathetic look at an artist whose sexuality
provided the core of her writing, and who
was fearless in confronting the pain and
reality of being a woman. Breathtaking.