History lessons seldom come with as much passion as they do in "Cézanne and I," French filmmaker Danièle Thompson's full-bodied look at the parallel lives of two of France's greatest artists.
The story begins in 1888 with the reunion of two old friends: the post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne (Guillaume Gallienne) and the writer Emile Zola (Guillaume Canet). Through flashbacks, we see that the two met as boys, with Paul defending the immigrant Emile in a schoolyard fight. Later, as young men, they shared wine and the occasional woman in college with the brash Cézanne swooping in to woo women the shy Zola was too timid to court.
As the two men got older, their careers diverged. Zola found early success with his essays, and later with novels, though he spent his later years afraid his talents had peaked too young. Cézanne was rejected by the establishment art salons and was regularly running out of money relying on his wealthy father (Gérard Meylan) and, later, Zola's generosity.