Fictionalized account of the life of famed French author Emile Zola. As portrayed in the film, he was a penniless writer sharing an apartment in Paris with painter Paul Cezanne when he finally wrote a best-seller, Nana. He has always had difficulty holding onto a job as he is quite outspoken, being warned on several occasions by the public prosecutor that he risks charges if he does not temper his writings. The bulk of the film deals with his involvement in the case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus who was falsely convicted of giving secret military information to the Germans and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devils Island. Antisemitism played an important role in the real-life case but is hardly mentioned in the film. Even after the military found definitive evidence that Dreyfus was innocent, the army decided to cover it up rather than face the scandal of having arbitrarily convicted the wrong man. Zola's famous letter, J'Accuse (I Accuse), led to his own trial for libel where he was ...Written by
Zola is shown as not wanting to get involved in the Dreyfus Affair until he is won over by an emotional plea from Mme. Dreyfus following the Esterhazy trial. In fact, he had interested himself in the affair for some time before that and had written articles denouncing the anti-semitism that had condemned Dreyfus. See more »
We've been watching your writings, young man. You're a troublemaker! These articles of yours, attacking our leading men of letters, the arts! Criticizing the civic authorities!
Perhaps you know of something better for me to criticize?
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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!
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