The bio-drama ‘’Cezanne et Moi’’ (⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars; rated R for profanity, sexual references and nudity; in subtitled French) presents an arresting dynamic: Two great artists in different fields, who value each other as indispensable, and yet clash every time they’re together. It’s the story of the lifelong friendship between Paul Cezanne and Emile Zola. Zola found success as a novelist, but not until he’d spent years almost freezing and starving to death. And Cezanne, though he had the benefit of family money, never achieved the success and acknowledgment that he craved. Their friendship is consistently difficult, partly because all of Cezanne’s human contacts are difficult, but also because Cezanne, despite his harshness and bluster, really cares what Zola thinks of him. Zola, by contrast, has the quiet self-possession to shrug off Cezanne whenever he offers criticism that Zola doesn’t want to hear. The film benefits from a standout performance from Guillaume Canet as Zola. But ultimately it’s Guillaume Gallienne who astonishes. He shows a gradual darkening of Cezanne’s psyche as the boisterous high spirits of youth slide into loutishness and meanness at middle age. It gets old watching a man make the same mistakes over and over. But the artist’s life as presented here is interesting, and you have to admire someone who can work with the same intensity, over the course of decades, in the face of indifference and rejection. (Opens Friday at Uptown in Minneapolis.)

Mick LASALLE, San Francisco Chronicle