Cézanne et moi [Cezanne and I] (2016)

Cézanne et moi
Director: Danièle Thompson
Writer: Danièle Thompson
Cast: Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Gallienne, Alice Pol, Déborah François, Pierre Yvon, Sabine Azéma, Gérard Meylan, Laurent Stocker, Isabelle Candelier
Seen on: 25.4.2021

Content Note: sexism, misogyny

Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet) and Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) have known each other since they were children. But as they grew older, they grew apart from each other. But now Cézanne has come to visit Zola and both are excited to see each other again. Once they get to talking, though, tensions between the two become obvious: Zola wrote a novel that draws on their life and Cézanne is unhappy with how he was portrayed in it. As both reflect on their relationship with each other, their lives and their women, it is unclear whether they can move past that tension and the very different way their lives developed.

Oh boy, Cézanne et moi was an absolutely boring movie. It moves slowly and spends most of its time dwelling on the sexism and misogyny those two men exhibit, while still wanting us to like them. That equation doesn’t work, nor does the film.

The film poster showing Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet) and Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) walking through a landscape that looks like it was painted by Cézanne.

I am sure that there are interesting things to say about both Zola and Cézanne, but the movie doesn’t find them, focusing rather on the fact that both treat the women around them very poorly, but taking no interest in those women either. In fact, they barely get to speak, their interest in those two assholes is taken for granted and the pain the men cause them is not worth mentioning.

Instead it feels like the film expects us to leer with the men at the breasts of the young chambermaid, instead of recoiling from the fact that Zola is so obviously lusting after a young woman (practically still a girl) in his employ. Or we are supposed to not take it seriously that Cézanne insists on calling Zola’s wife Alexandrine (Alice Pol) by the name she used when she was a sex worker, despite her constant requests to stop it. I could go on.

Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) and Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet) standing next to each other.

Of course, I am aware that the story is told from Zola’s perspective, and since he is a sexist (at least in this film, don’t know about the actual man), the story will be sexist. I am questioning the decision to tell the story from his point of view without any critical stance that wasn’t necessary and ruined the film for me.

Although I have to admit that even if the film hadn’t been sexist, it would have still been boring. So boring, in fact, that I quickly disengaged from it and couldn’t even tell you if it manages to give us a glimpse of who these two men were (apart from sexists, that is), or at least could have been – and a biopic that doesn’t even achieve that is a fail from front to back.

Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet) talking Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) as the latter paints.

Summarizing: skip it, not worth it.

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