This post was originally published on News Cult in March 2017.

Starring: Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Gallienne, Alice Pol, Déborah Farnçois, Sabine Azéma

Director: Danièle Thompson

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Rating: R for Artistic Nudity and Best Friends Yelling at Each Other

Release Date: March 31, 2017 (Limited)

Paul Cézanne caresses his wife/model Hortense’s naked chest to more thoroughly know his subject. This could be played as intense intimacy, or it could be discomforting invasiveness. Instead it is an illustration of how the Post-Impressionist painter is dead inside, lost to his art at the expense of his family. That is not to say he lacks passion. Oh no, he has passion to spare for a million still lives and portraits. It is just too untamed to be anything other than destructive.

Cézanne et moi dramatizes the friendship between Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) and novelist Émile Zola (Guillaume Canet), but friendship in this context feels like a bit of a misnomer, considering the amount of screen time they spend verbally tearing into each other. It is de rigueur, in life but especially in cinema, that artists’ lives must be tortured. That can be fascinating, but this is just unpleasant. That is a shame, because Gallienne and Canet are both laser-focused in their performances. The shouting matches themselves are not the problem so much as their endlessness. It is essentially the same fight over and over. It is not emotionally draining, just tiresome.

At least the cinematography is splendid. As befitting a film about an artist, the landscapes are beautiful. The French countryside is lush and inviting, but alas, it does not really illuminate anything about Cézanne or Zola’s psyches. The decoration is there to be admired, while the story trudges on. I root for these friends to work through their issues, but I also wish it would all just happen off screen.

Cézanne et moi is Recommended If You Like: Colorful Landscapes

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Picnics

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