Michael Bergeron
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Uncover Cezanne and Zola in “Cezanne et moi”

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To judge character by the film Cezanne et moi you would think that artist Paul Cezanne never went to a dinner party where he didn’t wind up insulting all the guests. Writer/director Daniéle Thompson recounts the ups and downs of Cezanne’s relationship with equally famous writer Emile Zola, a contentious friendship that starts in childhood and continues into old age.

Both men start out with the desire to become great in their respective fields and the film takes pains to ensure we see them as struggling and then successful. Zola seems content with his fame although as the years relentlessly roll on he becomes convinced that he will never again write novels like Nana or Germinal.

Cezanne on the other hand is shown destroying his paintings and relations with loved ones over and over. Cezanne’s anger management looms larger than life. In the end, despite their longtime brotherhood, both men have burnt so many bridges that their friendship remains a distant memory. Thompson captures some beautiful outdoor scenes that breathe with the joy of creation even though she pairs such imagery with the underside of human nature represented by dark cafés, drunken revelry at art openings and dank apartments.

Cezanne et moi stars two of France’s top actors, the two Guillaumes — Guillaume Canet and Guillaume Gallienne. Each actor (both also noted directors and both in their 40s) appears convincing in old age make-up.

“Cezanne et moi” unwinds exclusively at the River Oaks Theatre.