Monday, September 11, 2006

1937 The Life of Emile Zola

Stars: Paul Muni and Gloria Holden

In high school I studied French, and somewhere along the way I remember hearing about a famous letter entitled "J'accuse". Perhaps I even knew it was written by someone known as Emile Zola. But that was the limit of my knowledge of this person. Thankfully for me, this movie came along to show me something of what this person was about.

Emile Zola was a writer cum philosopher of sorts in France, born in 1840. His best friend and confidante was painter Cezanne. His works were often scandalous, but always note-worthy and brilliantly written. But, as the movie shows, as his wealth and fame grew, his care for matters seemed to wane. His most lasting work is related to the case of a French officer jailed for treason, without evidence. The officer's wife beseeches Zola to act on her behalf and re-open the case. It is as a result of this that he writes his open letter entitled "J'accuse" to the French president.

Some of the acting in this film is a little wooden, but it all seems to lead towards the reading of the letter. The manner of its reading is such to put this letter up there with the great works of oration. The movie is both touching and factually credible.

I am not sure whether I liked it because of the portrayal, or because it was just a really good story. I think a little of both.

"Truth and justice, so ardently longed for! How terrible it is to see them trampled, unrecognised and ignored!"


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