Production Company: Warner Bros.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Top Billed Actors: Paul Muni, Josephine Hutchinson, Anita Louise
IMDb Rating: 7.4
*Best Picture Nominee*
Won 3 Oscars:
Best Actor - Paul Muni
Best Writing (Adapted) - Pierre Collings, Sheridan Gibney
Best Writing (Story) - Pierre Collings, Sheridan Gibney
Nominated for 1 more:
Plot: A guy discovers germs and scientists spit in his face. Once the guy proves his discoveries, people stop being suckas and start washing their hands.
So this movie received two writing Oscars. Let's delve a little into the writing to see why. First of all, this is a very focused biopic. In my movie-watching experience, this is kind of an oxymoron. Most biopics cover unnecessary details about the subject's youth or old age. The only link between the scenes that are being presented is the main character. This movie, however, gets it right in that it goes from one major discovery to the next. We are introduced to microbes and how the world is ignorant of the potential harm they can do. Then, we go to the countryside and see the discovery of the cure for anthrax. Then we fast forward again and see Pasteur hard at work to try and cure rabies. Frivolous moments are nowhere to be found and the story is all the better for it. We don't see the history of Pasteur as a young man nor do we see him fall in love with his wife. The focus of the film is on these scientific discoveries and that's where it stays. This focus is helped by the wonderful performance of Muni. I've liked Muni since he first showed up in this Project, so much so that I selected the movie he starred in as the 'should have won' Best Picture for the 6th Awards. He's only 40 years old in this movie, but he plays the elderly man so well. He also gets many Oscar-worthy monologues, which always increases one's chances at the award.
Although I do like the overall story structure and the juicy monologues delivered from Muni, the writing does fall flat a few times throughout the feature. The scientists play the villain so blatantly, it is hard to imagine anyone acting like that. To keep the story on track, it seems like the writers were forced to get rid of any ambiguity. The Dr. Charbonnet character is so obviously ignorant of germs, it almost feels like an educational video, like "this is what you shouldn't do when preparing for a medical exam." Also, the romance between Donald Woods' character and Anita Louise's, Pasteur's daughter, is shoe-horned in the story. Overall, it's probably a good thing that there wasn't too much romance between the two per my praise of how focused this movie is, but I could have done with either more of it or none of it at all. Something that has nothing to do with the writing which lessens the impact of the film is the lack of music. The score is hardly present, which makes the movie feel like a relic of the past, as if it were made four years prior.
Overall, the writing is mostly superb and complements Paul Muni's strong performance as the titular character. The obviousness of the scientists' ignorance is grating after a while and the awkward silences between scenes takes away from the experience.
My Score: 7/10