Inevitably you find yourself pondering about if you had a dinner party, who you would invite. I’ve decided that meeting Colette would be most satisfying. French novelist and performer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette [1873-1954] lived through an amazing time of change from wars, slavery, suffrage to the emergence of technology which would change everything from manufacturing and domestic labour to the exploration of outer space. Colette was also ahead of her time, a confident precocious human who explored her, and women’s in general, sexuality through writing, performance art and in relationships with men and women. What dinner conversation would be had with this amazing person.
Chéri and Gigi, both books written by Colette, and later adapted into movies respectively with actresses, Michelle Pfeiffer and Leslie Caron, are fascinating looks at social Culture, love, wealth, women and youth. In the case of Chéri, Pfeiffer plays an aging courtesan in a mad love affair with a young man called Chéri [dear]. In Gigi, Caron plays a girl on the cusp of womanhood navigating family pressure to abandon hope of romantic love for security as a courtesan. I’ve always wondered what Colette would have to say about the adaptation of her novel, Gigi, into a musical. There are lots of prostitution movies that are either gritty or become romantic comedies like Disney’s Pretty Woman, but the movie Gigi always made me feel uncomfortable particularly with what became a beloved song sung by Maurice Chevalier, Thank Heaven for Little Girls.
Spoiler Alert. One interesting note is that in the Chéri novel, the final act shows the young lover leaving the courtesan because she has “aged”, but in the Chéri movie the novel and it’s sequel [Fin de Chéri ] are merged. The courtesan ends the affair when Chéri’s to be married, but sometime later he returns to the courtesan who while she says she loves him, it’s too late, she’s turned into an old woman and she asks him to leave permanently.
In the movie a narrator says Chéri leaves feeling relieved, but later understands that he loves only the courtesan and he reacts by killing himself?!? There must be more to it than that and I am longing to read the books AND grill Colette over a hot Cassoulet and wine from the Madiran region or maybe an inky Cahors.
If you could invite someone, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would it be?