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 <email@example.com>
A very young Michael Douglas and his brother ran screaming from the theater during the scene where Van Gogh severs his own ear because they believed their father, Kirk Douglas, had actually harmed himself. See more »
Camera shadow falls across Ducrucq as Van Gogh finds him dead. See more »
[Addressing a small group of his artist acquaintances]
The fact is, my dear friends, that you are not painters. You are, uh, tattoo artists. You are chemists with little pots of paint. You cover canvases with colored fleas. You are so busy imitating each other's tricks, you've forgotten what painting is about. You all make me sick.
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When I hear the name Vincente Minnelli certain scenes pop up on my inner screeningroom: A tracking shot at the fair (Some came running), the low tracking zoom towards Douglas and Turner at the pool (Bad and the Beautiful), snowmen (Meet me in St Louis) and the agony in Douglas's face in "Lust for life"; in fact as soon as his redbearded agonized face pops up, all the other movies fade away and "Lust for life" takes over my inner screening room.
But apart from being my favorite Minnelli movie, its a movie that more than any other shows his genius in use of colors; every scene is composed in breathtaking technicolor with the deepest respect for Van Gogh's own use of color, and Douglas's acting is filled with the same agony and passion as the strokes of Van Gogh's brush. As the other great movies who uses color to its fullest (Wizard of Oz, Black Narcissus, Ten Commandments), the simularities between the director and the painter is obvious. Hence, Minnelli's struggle for "painting" the scenes with the richness of technicolor becomes an echo of Van Gogh. It also reads as a textbook in composition from Steinberg's Dead Space to Eisenstein's juxtapositions. In all, Minnelli is of great skill and uses it to the fullest.
The story, which focuses on the struggle for a new way of expression, is tame at times and the acting (apart from Douglas) seems static most of the times, but the tortured face and body of Douglas and the use of color makes this one of the greatest achievements in MGM's history and one of the best movies Minnelli ever made.
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