After having spent an idyllic time in Aix-en-Provence this summer, the film Cézanne et moi caught my eye on Netflix. The film is about the friendship between writer Émile Zola and painter Paul Cézanne. It’s hard to go too many steps in Aix without seeing a reference to one or both of them. Here is where they went to school; here is where one lived; here is where the other worked.
The film, by director Danièle Thompson, examines their relationship over many years, culminating in the rupture over Zola’s depiction of his friend in L’Oeuvre. One has the tendency to think of them both achieving fame and fortune at somewhat the same time, but Cézanne, the son of a banker, worked without recognition or financial reward for decades after Zola, an immigrant who grew up in poverty, had become a wealthy bourgeois. Quite the role reversal.
I don’t think it was a great film, but it gave a view of the friendships and rivalries of an incredible group, such as Manet, Monet, Maupassant, and Renoir, at the time of the Salon des Refusés and the birth of Impressionism. I also enjoyed seeing the streets and fountains of Aix incorporated into the film, as well as the singing of the cigales, or cicadas, that are the soundtrack of Provence. It’s in French and subtitled in English.