Tag Archives: emile zola

A Symphony of Cheeses for “The Life of Emile Zola”

french cheeses

Cheese in all its incarnations is definitely one of Kristy and Koob’s favorite foods, and France is the home of so many delicious cheeses. But with so many different kinds, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose just one. As Charles de Gaulle once famously said of France, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese”.

Emile Zola captured this sentiment in his 1873 novel “Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris)”. Much of the novel focuses on Les Halles which was the central market of Paris for many years. While the book is a social commentary on the struggles of the working class and the “fattening” of the bourgeoisie, it is also filled with beautifully descriptive passages of the amazing variety of food found at Les Halles; the most well-known of which is the “Cheese Symphony” which is excerpted below:

All around them the cheeses were stinking. On the two shelves at the back of the stall were huge blocks of butter: Brittany butter overflowing its baskets; Normandy butter wrapped in cloth, looking like models of bellies on to which a sculptor had thrown some wet rags; other blocks, already cut into and looking like high rocks full of valleys and crevices. […] But for the most part the cheeses stood in piles on the table. There, next to the one-pound packs of butter, a gigantic cantal was spread on leaves of white beet, as though split by blows from an axe; then came a golden Cheshire cheese, a gruyère like a wheel fallen from some barbarian chariot, some Dutch cheeses suggesting decapitated heads smeared in dried blood and as hard as skulls – which has earned them the name of ‘death’s heads’. A parmesan added its aromatic tang to the thick, dull smell of the others. […] Then came the strong-smelling cheeses: the mont-d’ors, pale yellow, with a mild sugary smell; the troyes, very thick and bruised at the edges, much stronger, smelling like a damp cellar; the camemberts, suggesting high game; the neufchâtels, the limbourgs, the marolles, the pont-l’évèques, each adding its own shrill note in a phrase that was harsh to the point of nausea; […]
A silence fell at the mention of Gavard. They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the marolles and the limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every now and then, however, a slight whiff, a flute-like note, came from the parmesan, while the bries came into play with their soft, musty smell, the gentle sound, so to speak, of a damp tambourine. The livarot launched into an overwhelming reprise, and the géromé kept up the symphony with a sustained note.

( The Belly of Paris, by Émile Zola, Oxford University Press, translated by Brian Nelson, 2007, p210-216)

So grab yourself some brie or some roquefort or some camembert (personally, we say the stinkier the better) and enjoy “The Life of Emile Zola” while creating your own cheese symphony.

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Life of Emile Zola: Best Picture Winner – 1937

zola_1902b

The Basics – The Life of Emile Zola (1937) – Director – William Dieterle; Paul Muni, Gale Sondergaard, Joseph Schildkraut; Run Time – 116 mins. – Biography, Drama – “The biopic of the famous French muckraking writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair.”

Prior Knowledge

Kristy – The only thing I know is that Emile Zola was a well-known French author and activist.

Koob – The only knowledge that I have of this movie was what I read on Wikipedia about Emile Zola; that he was a French writer and that he wrote “J’accuse” and was involved in the Dreyfus Affair

Fun Facts from IMDB

The film was shot in reverse order; Paul Muni grew his own beard for the role, and it was trimmed and darkened as he proceeded to scenes where Zola is younger. His makeup took 3-1/2 hours to apply each morning.

 Studio boss Jack L. Warner, who was himself Jewish, personally ordered that the word “Jew” be removed from all dialogue in this movie, apparently in order not to offend the Nazi regime and hurt business for the film in Germany–this according to Ben Urwand in his controversial 2013 study, ‘The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler’.
This was the first film to receive 10 Academy Award nominations.

Considered highly contentious in France, the film wasn’t granted a proper release in that country until 1952

Viewing Source – Amazon Instant Video ($2.99 rental)

Post Viewing Responses

Ratings (with 1 star = the worst and 5 stars = the best)

Koob: 2 stars

Kristy: 2 atars

Double Gobble Score: 2 stars

The Takeaway: A fairly standard biopic with some solid acting and an interesting history lesson.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: