Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The biopic of the famous French writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair. [imdb]

Nominated for 10 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: William Dieterle
Best Actor: Paul Muni
Best Supporting Actor: Joseph Schildkraut (WINNER)
Best Writing, Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Writing, Original Story
Best Assistant Director
Best Music, Score
Best Art Direction
Best Sound

I had interrupted my Best Picture series for like 3 months, mainly because I knew this one was next :P It's such an unexciting movie, but I admit it was a much easier watch after 40 minutes or so. The Life of Emile Zola is the 10th Best Picture winner. And I think it's safe to say the film is far from being deserving. From the list of nominees, I could easily point out The Awful Truth, The Good Earth and especially A Star Is Born as being far more worthy of the title.
Paul Muni's performance is very confusing to me. He's awful as a young Zola, but creates a rather believable old Zola and I often forgot that it was a 40 year old man under makeup. Anyway, definitely not worthy of a win. Schildkraut gives the best performance, but his screentime is so limited that I am surprised he won the Oscar; he has very little dialogue but gives the (only) realistic portrayal of the movie. The screenplay is very thin except for the monogue in the court scene (the only entertaining scenes in the movie), the direction is ignorable and the film itself rather flat.
My rating for the film: 4/10. I noticed this movie was on a special Best Picture dvd next to Amadeus and Casablanca, and 2 others. I felt like screaming. How can you put this next to a classic like Casablanca? Ridiculous. Is this the best they could find from the 30s?!
PS: The 11th BP winner, You Can't Take It with You (1938) had already been mentioned on this blog, before I started this series. You can click here.

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