Daničle Thompson's latest effort sitting in the directors chair should have been a film that I - a history and art student - should rave about. I should have liked it much more than I did and once again it has to do with flat characters.


Thompson, long ago wrote "Cousin cousine" in 1975 and earned a well deserved Oscar nomination for the effort. She has since been considered for a few Cesar Awards (France), but nothing has made it stateside until now. What is presented is a flat portrait of two of Frances most dynamic artist of the 19th century.


Guillaume Canet and Guillaume Gallienne play Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne respectively starting initially as when they are in their fifties and flashing back through their lifelong association with each other. Indeed, the met in school with Cezanne rescuing Zola from a thrashing from schoolyard tussle. It is a good setup to an enduring friendship but ultimately flattens out quickly when the characters keep reliving the same scene at different ages.

Cezanne came from a wealthy family and is constantly pissed that his work has been largely overlooked. Zola on the other hand is poor most of his life and doesn't find success until later in life when he got involved with the Dreyfus affair. Cezanne has problems with his interpersonal skills and Zola is a great host, though poor.


Throughout the film, Thompson gets teh friends together, then pulls them apart with Cezanne constantly challenging their friend ship and Zola constantly reaffirming it. Over and over.


There are artistic cameos by Renoir, Pissarro, Manet and Maupassant. At least they only have cameos, other characters are moved in and out without development inclusing Zolla's mother Emilie (Isabelle Candelier) and all of the two artists' female acquaintances. Moreover there is never an explanation why Zola betrayed the painter with his novel L'Oeuvre, leaving the story so incomplete. If their relationship was so strong, why was it doomed?


Yet despite the lack of well developed characters Thompson is able to rely on the cinematography of Jean-Marie Dreujou who paints and amazing picture that could easily live without words. The camerawork flows effortlessly from sweeping landscapes to intimate close-ups. Colors are lush and popping from the Sony F65 camera with Vantage lenses. Indeed you may be mesmerized watching Cezanne paint and wishing for less dialogue.


It will be interesting to see if the film at least gets recognition for the cinematography as it releases through the year.


"Cezanne Et Moi" (Cezanne and I) is a beautifully photographed film that captures the essence of visual art and then wrecks it with superficial characters that never develop beyond repetitive catfights.   -- GEOFF BURTON