139 minutes, France, 2013, Colour, D-Cinema

Divided into chapters, each named after a figure instrumental in shaping Violette Leduc’s discordant life, director Martin Provost’s depiction of the acclaimed French author is forceful and moving. Beginning with Violette’s unruly relationship with duplicitous writer Maurice Sachs, the film captures the pair’s war-ravaged existence, eking out a living in the French countryside to avoid Nazi-occupied Paris, surviving on scraps bought on the black market.

After Sachs abandons Violette, played by the outstanding Emmanuelle Devos, she returns to the capital to finish the book he implored her to write, whereupon she tracks down Simone de Beauvoir to ask her to read it. Sandrine Kiberlain’s alluring de Beauvoir obliges and recognises in Violette’s writing a forthright voice capable of challenging received notions about female expression and sexuality. Stark and poetic, this is a beautiful rendition worthy of its intrepid, powerful subject. (Notes by Alice Butler.)

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