The Life of Emile Zola is a biopic directed by William Dieterle and starring the consummate Paul Muni as the notable French writer. It is a standardly great film, as odd as that may sound; it is above average in every regard, yet it remains a standard piece of work in the Must See list.
The film starts off with Zola and friend Cezanne in a shabby Parisian apartment, struggling to break into prominence, which Zola eventually does, and he becomes a wealthy and influential writer. It is here that the film shifts focus to Alfred Dreyfus, who is convicted of treason and sentenced to life in exile among his cries of innocence. Dreyfus’ wife soon uncovers evidence that the top brass know he is innocent, and she goes to Zola looking for aid in announcing to the world the French army’s injustices that would forever mark Zola’s later career in history. The libel trial of Zola is by far one of the most disgustingly abhorrent trials in cinematic history. Paul Muni gives a brilliant turn as Zola, completely becoming the man in physical appearance and mannerism as well as character. Muni would go on to be nominated for Best Actor, and though having won the previous year it is a shock that he did not win for this as well (Spencer Tracy would win the first of his two Oscars for Captains Courageous).
This is a very good film indeed, mostly thanks to the impeccable Paul Muni. This is a must see mostly for him, but also for the fine qualities the film itself possesses. Definitely give this one a chance if ever you get one.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10