Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Best Actor 1937: Paul Muni in The Life of Emile Zola

Paul Muni received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying French writer Emile Zola in The Life of Emile Zola.

The Life Emile Zola is not a great movie by any means, and it takes a very long time to get going. I feel it does when it reaches the Dreyfus affair but it should probably have just been called the Dreyfus Affair with Zola being an important character. I think that would have made a better film.

Muni here plays a character who is almost always in the right and likes to tell other people how they are wrong, all through his life. Muni role is simple in this way, as Zola is rarely conflicted and almost always right. I will say an actor can actually excel in roles like these like Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird, but Muni does not quite excel. He moves along throughout the film with a fine adequate performance, even though at times he certainly does overact especially in the opening scene. He throws up his arms and makes some over the top faces for no real reason. He does these at times throughout his performance they are never that distracting but always stick out in a bad way.

He does do something well in this film and that is quite well. He ages incredibly well in this film. I really believed him as the elderly Zola, and thought he did a good job doing the mannerism of older age without over doing it. The other thing he does well enough are his speeches. I will say some he is a little annoying, but he is always properly passionate in the role. His best speech is his one to the Jury where he wants proper justice. He delivers this speech particularly well and certainly does a good job of it. His performance works well for the film, and I think he was right for the part. I would say I could have done without his overacting at times, but still he delivered the "goods" so to speak when he had to in this performance.

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