Cezanne et Moi traces the parallel paths of the lives, careers and passionate friendship of post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne and novelist Emile Zola. The two boys grew up in Aix-en-Provence. Emile was fatherless and poor. Paul came from a wealthy family. As young men, dreaming of glory and beautiful women, they left the south to conquer the art scene in Paris. Soon Emile had it all, success, money, and the perfect wife, and embraced the very bourgeoisie he mocked in his books. Meanwhile, Cezanne rejected the Parisian scene to focus only on his work, ignored by his peers and the establishment.
Père Tanguy, who appears in the movie selling paint to Cézanne in his shop, also provided other impressionist painters and Vincent Van Gogh, who made a portrait of him now at the Rodin Museum in Paris. See more »
Jean de la lune
Performed by Hanna Hägglund See more »
the painter and the writer
Films about the painters of the artistic revolution in France of the last decades of the 19th century have long become a stand-alone cinematic genre. Impressionists and post-impressionists changed the course of art and reinvented the process of artistic creation. The interest related to their lives and their artistic careers was amplified by the fact that their biographies intersected creating a group dynamic, well documented by the writers of the time but also by the vast correspondence that many of them left behind. 'Cezanne et Moi', Danièle Thompson's 2016 film follows the relationship between the painter Paul Cezanne and the writer Emile Zola from their childhood in Aix-en-Provence, going through the stormy 1860s spent in Paris where the two sought their way in life and in art, until the final decades of their lives, when their personal and artistic paths parted, at least apparently, in an argument as spectacular and passionate as their friendship had been until then. For both of them, this relationship was the friendship of their lives, probably more important than their marriages and relationships. What united them was childhood and youth, what separated them towards the end was art.
'Cezanne et Moi' is more of a psychological study than a film about art. The narrative technique of flashbacks reconstructs the paths in life of the child of a banker who became a radical painter in conceptions and art (Cezanne - Guillaume Gallienne) and of the son of Italian immigrants (Zola - Guillaume Canet) who became one of the most important writers of France and an opinion journalist with great influence. The writer travels the social path of gentrification as his successful books bring him public recognition. The painter remains a marginal and a loner, he does not integrate in the social or artistic circles of the time. The friendship between the two men also seems to invade their personal lives, and director Danièle Thompson does not hesitate to describe critically and with feminist opprobrium their misogynistic attitude and the lack of sensitivity towards the women in their lives. The social and artistic environment of Paris in which the rise of the bourgeoisie took place in parallel with the radicalization of art is described in great detail, although the spectator a little careless or less knowledgeable in the history of French painting and literature in the second half of the 19th century may miss the presence and importance of some of the personalities that appear on the screen for just a few seconds.
'Cezanne et Moi' is a biopic that allows itself some freedoms, despite the repeated mention of the years and places where important scenes take place. Some of the situations are imagined, some of the lines are taken from Zola's books and articles, or from the correspondence between the two artist friends and rivals. The two actors who play the main roles are trained in the theater school of Comedie Francaise, which is an advantage because of the deep cultural understanding and respect for the personalities embodied on the screen, but also a disadvantage because we can feel a certain rigidity of the actors in relation to the camera. Guillaume Canet's Zola has more warmth, calm and prestige while Guillaume Gallienne's Cezanne plays his disorder and anxieties in a more exteriorized manner, with repetitive hysteria not always clearly motivated. Excellent makeup helps them cross ages. The cinematography is superb, especially in the scenes filmed in Provence, which insinuate, a little demonstratively perhaps, the way the landscape and light have permeated Cezanne's art. However, the artistic facets of the two personalities remain hidden. What separated the two friends in the end was art. To write his book about the artistic environment of Paris, Emile Zola used Cezanne's life and person as raw material, he exposed his friend to the public, and the painter never forgave him for that. Revolutionizing painting, Cezanne received little recognition and appreciation during his lifetime except for some of the felloew artists, and Zola joined the critical chorus at a delicate time. Only death and posterity appeased them and their names remain together for all those who came later. 'Cezanne et Moi' tells a lot about the friendship and ego clashes between the two, but too little about their art. Only towards the end of the film, in the credits, the images of nature melting in the paintings remind us of what it is really about when we say the name of Paul Cezanne.
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