Directed by Danièle Thompson, “Cézanne Et Moi” tells a timeless story of friendship rivalry and bitterness although it, unfortunately, falls victim to historical stuffiness.
Hitting select theaters this Friday is the Parisian historical biography “Cézanne Et Moi,” a lengthy recounting of the true-life friendship between two artists in the late 1800s. Running just shy of two hours and subtitled in French,”Cézanne Et Moi,” proves to be a rather arduous watch, despite its interesting context of 19th Century poets and painters.
Writer Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet) greets his friend, the titular French painter Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) at his large estate in Médan, a northwestern suburb of Paris. The house compliments Zola’s aesthetic, sharply dressed and beaming of wealth. Cézanne, on the other hand, looks about as rough as he feels– his shaggy hair and unkempt appearance symbolizing his struggles as a working painter. From here, the film moves very fast through flashbacks of their first meeting in grade school, to their mischevious twenties, and finally middle age. Just as their friendship evolves throughout the years, so do their individual successes and failures, ultimately driving a wedge between the two men who used to be best friends.
Directed by Danièle Thompson, “Cézanne Et Moi” tells a timeless story of friendship rivalry and bitterness although it, unfortunately, falls victim to historical stuffiness. Relying heavily on the performances from the lead actors, which are delivered with an abundance of verve and theatrics, and a dense script, including a lot of superfluous chit-chat, “Cézanne” is a tough film to sit through. This is not to be confused with calling it a bad movie; in fact, the images of Paris and those who lived there in the 1800s are extremely beautiful and give the film life.
For as grandiose as their accomplishments and notoriety, overall, “Cézanne Et Moi” feels like it comes up a bit short in its retelling of their relationship.
Credit also belongs to the actors, who fully embody the men they set out to play. Canet as Émile Zola looks the part to a tee, stoic yet refined. Gallienne transforms physically and emotionally into the explosive artist Cézanne, wearing his emotions on his sleeve and confidently pursuing his passion despite the hardships he faced.
Considered some of the greatest figures in French culture, Cézanne was looked up to by Picasso and Matisse, who considered him “a god of painting.” To this day, over 700 of his works are on display around the world. Zola is still considered the most prominent French novelist of the late 19th century and is credited as founding the Naturalist art movement. For as grandiose as their accomplishments and notoriety, overall, “Cézanne Et Moi” feels like it comes up a bit short in its retelling of their relationship.
“Cézanne Et Moi” is rated R for language, sexual references, and nudity. 117 minutes. Playing in select Laemmle theaters this Friday, 4/7.