Violette is a film consumed by hunger, as was its heroine, the French writer Violette Leduc: hunger for love, for companionship, for artistic validation. Portrayed with flickering levels of ferocity by the supple-faced Emmanuelle Devos, Leduc forcefully grasps at potential paramours and sucks down cigarettes with the intensity of a person suppressing grander desires. Leduc perceived herself as ugly, and Devos, who dons a slightly exaggerated prosthetic nose for the role, makes her a knotty combination of physical awkwardness and intense yearning, literally chasing her lovers when they leave her.
Certainly, those desires drove Leduc's creative impulses: She devoted much of her second published novel to her infatuation with Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain), the already established writer and feminist who became her mentor and later, her unofficial patron. She named it L'Affamée (Starved).
Violette is the second in director Martin Provost's diptych about female artists that began with 2008's Séraphine, a film based on the life of painter Séraphine de Senlis. Thankfully, Leduc's career turns out nothing like de Senlis's, who died in a mental institution, and her film nothing like the sedate, sometimes aloof Séraphine -- she's far too angry, and too jealous, to fade into the background. After being ushered by de Beauvoir into a small circle of Parisian intellectuals that includes Jean Genet (Jacques Bonnaffé) and Albert Camus, Leduc rages against the comparative success of her peers, and freaks when they don't take her seriously. Provost's film, like its heroine, is full of active, sparking nerves.