The familiar tragic story of Vincent van Gogh is broadened by focusing as well on his brother Theodore, who helped support Vincent. The movie also provides a nice view of the locations which Vincent painted.
A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
Vincent Van Gogh is the archetypical tortured artistic genius. His obsession with painting, combined with mental illness, propels him through an unhappy life full of failures and unrewarding relationships. He fails at being a preacher to coal miners. He fails in his relationships with women. He earns some respect among his fellow painters, especially Paul Gauguin, but he does not get along with them. He only manages to sell one painting in his lifetime. The one constant good in his life is his brother Theo, who is unwavering in his moral and financial support. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have always liked this movie--despite not being a great fan of Van Gogh's work. However, I recently came to absolutely love this film and can really appreciate the artistry of the producers and director--they OBVIOUSLY really cared about the story and did so much to replicate the life of Van Gogh.
Let me explain. I teach a psychology class and part of the class involves discussing famous people with mental illnesses. Considering I teach at an arts school, it seemed natural to show and discuss Lust for Life. In addition, I picked up perhaps the definitive book on the paintings of Van Gogh. As we watched the film, I flipped through the massive book and was shocked how accurately everything was portrayed in the film. The locations, scenery and characters were absolutely dead on in every respect. In particular, all the little bit characters in the film looked almost like clones of the paintings of these actual people Van Gogh knew. For example, the sailor friend, his doctor in the mental hospital, the artist Pisarro and MANY others were just about carbon copies.
In addition, the myth of Van Gogh was avoided in the film. Unlike the common story, Van Gogh did NOT cut off his ear and give it to a prostitute. The exact nature of the event is a little confusing, but no reputable historian would tell the often repeated story about the prostitute! It was likely a suicide attempt and only a portion of the ear was torn off as he was slicing his throat--or, he did it as a histrionic reaction to a fight with his crazed friend, Gaughin.
The only MINOR short-coming is that in a couple places, Kirk Douglas' acting seems a little overboard. But, considering how his performance was OVERALL, this can easily be overlooked. Also, although Van Gogh cut off most of his ear as a result of a suicide attempt, the movie accidentally SWITCHES which ear was removed--look carefully and you'll see.
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