Sunday, July 1, 2012

1938: The Life of Emile Zola

The Life of Emile Zola is a slightly misleading title. This is really the story of the Dreyfus affair told from the point of view of writer Emile Zola with a long introduction showing key points in his career. I really mention that less as a nitpick about the title, as titles are allowed to be ambigous and/or misleading (I'm looking at you, Naked Lunch). I point that out more because the movie really takes off when we gt to the Dreyfus affair.

I first became familiar with the Dreyfus affair after seeing it as a favorite subject of several questions and answers on Jeopardy. French Captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly accused, tries and convicted of treason. When evidence of his innocence was discovered, it was covered by higher ups in the French army, prompting many French intellectuals, including Emile Zola, to get involved.

The first part of the movie, actually showing the life of Emile Zola, moves quickly enough, as it is a series of short scenes that outlines his writing career. But there's nothing too interesting, save for his friendship with painter Paul C├ęzanne and a few lines about fighting for the people, likely taken from his own writings. I found myself mentally drifting away during that first part, but as I mentioned before, the movie really takes off when the Dreyfus affair begins. The scenes when Emile Zola is on trial are the most dramatic and best of the movie and made it well worth watching.

NEXT WEEK: 1939 - You Can't Take it With You

Oscar Project Rankings:
  1. It Happened One Night (1935)
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1931)
  3. Mutiny on the Bounty (1936)
  4. The Life of Emile Zola (1938)
  5. Grand Hotel (1933)
  6. Cimarron (1932)
  7. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  8. Broadway Melody (1930)
  9. Wings (1929)
  10. Cavalcade (1933)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't Emile Zola one of those guys who fought Captain America?