Cézanne et Moi | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews


Cézanne et Moi

Cézanne et Moi

Back to Amazon Prime and French films, the latest being this biographical story of the friendship between Paul Cézanne and Emil Zola. These schoolboy friends maintained a relationship throughout their lives, but this friendship was tempered by bad feeling when Zola, whose mother struggled financially after his father died, became more bourgeois, while the little-rich-boy Cézanne, from a wealthy banking family, wasted his genius in a devil-may-care life of women and contempt for authority. His work was consistently relegated to the Salon des Refusés, which displayed work not accepted by the jury of the Paris Salon.

In matters of love, or more correctly sex, Cézanne has no problems while Zola's timidity prevents him from approaching women. He becomes entranced by one of Cézanne's model's, and mistress, who calls herself Gabrielle. As the film jumps from youth to their more mature lives, we see Zola married to Gabrielle, although she now uses her real name, Alexandrine (née Éléonore-Alexandrine Meley).

Zola's novel, L'Œuvre, was in effect a fictionalised depiction of Cézanne and the Bohemian life of Paris artists. Cézanne was angry that his friend had used their relationship in this way, which led to a virtual breakdown of their friendship. And there remained bad feeling over Alexandrine, now Zola's wife. These tensions are central to the film as we jump from past to present.

I found the depiction of nineteenth century Paris fascinating, as artists and authors who are now household names meet as young men who were still to make their mark. And as a counterpoint, we have the beautiful scenery of Aix-en-Provence, where Zola and Cézanne met as young boys and grew up.

In the end Zola's natural shyness with women is overcome when he starts a relationship with a young seamstress, Jeanne Rozerot, who had been hired by Alexandrine. We see Zola seemingly totally mesmerised by the young woman and he eventually has two children by her. His life seems complete; literary success, a young partner and children. Cézanne, however, didn't really receive the acclaim he deserved until after his death, being now considered as one of the most influential artists of the 19th century.

The reviews have been mixed, but I enjoyed it. I would like to think that the less favourable reviews were not influenced by the fact that the film's director, Danièle Thompson, is female.

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