What appears to be one of the greatest bromances in cultural history has finally been brought to the screen in Cezanne and I (Cezanne et moi), writer-director Daniele Thompson’s flowery, fictionalized account of the affectionate if caustic friendship between the titular French painter and his lifelong bestie, the writer Emile Zola.
Set between the year 1888, when a nearly 50-year-old Cezanne confronts Zola about his novel L’Oeuvre (whose main character — an ambitious but failed painter — struck way too close to home for the artist), and a slew of flashbacks recalling how the pair became school pals in Aix-en-Provence and grew up to share a mutual love of art and beautiful women, Thompson’s script keeps the action moving along while pinpointing the differences between the two stubborn creators: Zola, who was fatherless and poor, dreamed of becoming a writer and eventually joined the very bourgeoisie he seemed to mock in his youth; while Cezanne, who grew up rich but with major daddy issues, wound up rejecting society to focus entirely on his work, which was only recognized at the very end of his life (he had his first solo exhibition in 1895).
Shot partially on location in the south of France, the sweeping cinematography of Jean-Marie Dreujou (Wolf Totem) captures many of the landscapes that would be memorialized by Cezanne’s canvases, especially the different views he produced of the Montagne Saint-Victoire in his beloved Provence. Other tech contributions are extremely polished in a film that does a good job painting a broad picture of two major figures in art and literature but fails to depict them with any credible detail.
ézanne and I (original title: Cézanne et moi) is a French biographical drama film based on the friendship between 19th century novelist Émile Zola and painter Paul Cézanne. The film was written and directed by Danièle Thompson; it stars Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Gallienne, Alice Pol, Déborah François and Sabine Azéma. It was named as one of four films on the shortlist for the French submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.
Cézanne and I – Cézanne et Moi
Directed by: Danièle Thompson
Starring: Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Gallienne, Alice Pol, Déborah François, Sabine Azéma, Gérard Meylan, Isabelle Candelier
Screenplay by: Danièle Thompson
Production Design by: Michèle Abbé-Vannier
Cinematography by: Jean-Marie Dreujou
Film Editing by: Sylvie Landra
Costume Design by: Catherine Leterrier
Set Decoration by: Suzanne Arhex
Art Direction by: Stephanie Angrand
Music by: Éric Neveux
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Pathé Distribution
Release Date: March 31, 2017