The life of Emile Zola

Life of Emile Zola (Motion picture).

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  • In 1862 Paris, Emile Zola is barely scratching out a living writing muckraking articles about the poverty of the French people and the corruption of their leaders. Until "Nana," about the life of a prostitute, becomes a smash hit and turns Zola into a celebrity, champion of the people. As he churns out a string of similar books that make him quite rich, his old friend Paul Cezanne tells him "An artist should remain poor." His determined intervention in the Dreyfus Affair, at the request of Dreyfus's wife Lucie, results in "J'accuse!" his famous denunciation of the Army, and leads to a conviction for libel. He flees to England, where he remains until granted amnesty. Unfortunately, he dies before the news that Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated to full rank can reach him. Indicative of the mores of its time, during the course of this clear story about institutionalized anti-Semitism, the word "Jew" is never mentioned. And while most Hollywood biographies must be taken with a grain--if not a handful--of salt, the film makes a reasonable effort at accuracy and completeness.


  • Source material, Matthew Josephson's "Zola and his time."
  • Special features: The littlest diplomat [featurette] (19 min.); Romance Road [featurette] (19 min.); Ain't we got fun [cartoon featurette] (8 min.); 5/8/39 Lux Radio Theater broadcast [audio feature] (59 min.); Theatrical trailer (4 min.).
  • In English with optional subtitles in English, French, or Spanish ; closed captioned.
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