Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cezanne and I: An Extraordinary Journey of Art and Friendship

By José Alberto Hermosillo
“Cezanne et moi” is a highly accomplished time-period film about art, love, and the struggle of two good friends who reached everlasting fame.

This exquisite
and intimate biopic recalls the lives of the legendary 19th-century artists, Paul Cezanne, and Emile Zola, the neglected painter, and the celebrated author. 

The nonlinear story goes back and forth from their present time to their childhood, through their adolescence, and goes back to their adulthood.

In a Catholic School in a small province of France, we meet the 
immigrant fatherless Emile Zola, bullied by his classmates. Cezanne, the rich boy, defended him. That was the beginning of a lifetime friendship.

Their ambitions motivated them to move from the Mediterranean hillside town of Aix-en-Provence to Paris. In Montmartre and Batignolles, Inglewood, they met other emerging and established artists, Monet, Renoir, Bazille, Morisot, and Cassatt.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Zola and Cezanne become roommates. They slept with the same women and fell in love with many of dubious reputation. Those were difficult times when they struggled on the brink of starvation.

Zola was not French, but he was very eloquent in his writings. Fame and fortune came first for the writer, while the painter wrestled his demons. 


Cezanne hated himself so much that he destroyed some of his artwork. He was not alone; his unique, groundbreaking Impressionist style struck a chord of young art lovers regardless of what the classics artist thought about Cezanne's projects.

This feature film perfectly depicts two friends, and how they lived their lives in their own worlds, with their trials and failures. They followed their passion.
Guillaume Gallienne (Cezanne). Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Frustrated for been ignored by the Academy of Arts, Cezanne hit rock bottom. Yet, Zola always cared for his friend.

In a lucid moment, Cezanne says to Zola, “I would like to paint as well as you write.” He continues, “If I live with a man I love, I should live with a woman who hates me, yes?” He finishes with a sentimental note: “I can't remember why you love me so much.” At one point, their friendship gets tiresome. 

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
The prestigious Academy of Arts qualified Zola's books “Germinal” and “Nana” as vulgar and obscene. Regardless of the scandal, French readers had a big appetite for those types of stories. His success was imminent.
Guillaume Canet (Zola). Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Zola's experiences in brothels are not in the film. Maybe that was one of the reasons why this movie got such mixed reviews in France. 

On the other hand, to show the downside of the Parisian night scene would take away much of the film's central theme, the friendship between two great artists. 
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Actors Guillaume Gallienne (Cezanne) and Guillaume Canet (Zola) are magnificent in their respective characters; their performances are outstanding. 
 Director Daniele Thomson. Photo by Jose Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA
The film is directed and remarkably written by Daniele Thomson ("Avenue Montaigne," "It Happened in Saint-Tropez/Des Gens qui s'embrassent"). Mrs. Thomson's years of experience in filmmaking delivers an essential film based on the lives of two of the most celebrated artist in French history.

Daniele Thomson is the Woody Allen of French Cinema, her style of writing subtle comedy is sharp and elegant. 

Director Daniele Thomson and film critic Jose Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA
Ms. Thomson's writing style is delectable. She works on the dynamics of conversations and enlarges the dialogue to transmit the proper emotions from the actors to the audience.

The evocative and utterly beautiful cinematography by the legendary French cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou ("Two Brothers," "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress," and Jodorowski's "The Dance of Reality").
Music composer Erik Neveux. Photo by Jose Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA
The original music is composed by Erik Neveux (Intimacy, The Attack). Neveux composition is extraordinary. The violins, cellos, guitars, and flutes reverberate flawlessly, enhancing the mood according to the story.

The music has plenty of natural sounds that evocate the appropriate ambiance of the period of the story with grace and perfect harmony. 

Viewers will experience a gorgeous film full of art, passion, and those beautiful moments that go along with a lifetime friendship.
"Cezanne and I" soundtrack
Photo by Jose Hermosillo. 
Copyright © Festival in LA
Music composer Erik Neveux and film critic Jose Hermosillo. Copyright © Festival in LA

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