30 May 1999 | macpherr
It has great passion, deep commitments, love, great music, and we get to know a bit more about French literature.
William Dieterle directed this classic biography and was nominated for an Oscar for his work. This movie had ten Oscar nominations, and won best picture in 1938. Paul Muni (The Last Angry Man) was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Émile Zola, one of the foremost writers in France. Zola and his best friend and confident painter Paul Cezanne, played by Russian born actor Vladimir Sokoloff (Taras Bulba, For Whom The Bell Tolls), who attend the Moscow Academy of Dramatic Art. The story takes place in Paris in 1862. Paul Cezanne and Émile Zola were friends when both were starting their careers. Through ups and downs Zola became financially successful long before Cezanne. He was married and had a successful career as an author. Paul Cezanne then decided to live in the country far away from the city, and told Zola not to be part of the establishment but to fight for truth and justice again. Émile Zola is living comfortable and even getting fat, and is about to became a member of the French Academy for the utmost writers, and to get honored by the Nobel society. He is approached by Lucie Dreyfus, played by Gale Sondergaard (Anna and the King of Siam), whose husband was unjustly court martialed and sent to Devil's Island (Papillion's prison home) because he was accused of betraying his country by disclosing military secrets. Mr. Dreyfuss' case is one of those passionate cases where anti-Semitism is also an issue. It is unbelievable that this specially inhumane trial took place in France, nation for Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. That what Zola was fighting for.
The music by Max Steiner is beautiful. He was also nominated for an Oscar for best music score. Anatole France is also part of the story. My favorite scenes: the folding umbrellas, Zola getting his first pay check as a best seller author, the conversations between Zola and Paul Cezanne. The determination of Ms. Dreyfuss and she goes to talk to Zola, her last hope. My favorite quotes: "There are times when the most courageous thing is to be cowardly". This is a great biography. It is a Schindler's list type of story! It has great passion, deep commitments, love, great music, and we get to know a bit more about French literature. Thanks to my dad, who was passionate for literature and majored in languages, I was brought up with a library of books where one could find the internationally acclaimed classics. Émile Zola's works were among dad's favorite. That was what made me purchase the tape. I highly recommend it. You can learn a lot from this movie!