An anguished foster child takes to mischief and lies as his foster parents do their best to love and care for him. But it might be too little, too late in this emotionally devastating portrayal of the orphaned child.
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.
In late spring, 1890, Vincent moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, under the care of Dr. Gachet, living in a humble inn. Fewer than 70 days later, Vincent dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We see Vincent at work, painting landscapes and portraits. His brother Theo, wife Johanna, and their baby visit Auvers. Vincent is playful and charming, engaging the attentions of Gachet's daughter Marguerite (who's half Vincent's age), a young maid at the inn, Cathy a Parisian prostitute, and Johanna. Shortly before his death, Vincent visits Paris, quarrels with Theo, disparages his own art and accomplishments, dances at a brothel, and is warm then cold toward Marguerite.Written by
The film focuses entirely on the final three months of the artist's life, as he lived in Auvers, near Paris. What we get is a cinematic study, not so much of Vincent himself, but of his relationship with those around him in those final weeks: the doctor and his family, the brother and his wife, the people at the hotel, his various love interests. For a film about a painter, the plot has him painting very little. The film is almost a soap opera of back-and-forth talk, mostly serious but with some lighter moments mixed in. Too much dialogue is my main complaint.
Vincent (Jacques Dutronc) comes across as introverted, shy, temperamental, intellectual, and unpredictable. He gets a lot of criticism of his painting from those around him. It's hardly a supportive environment, especially given how prosaic, trite, and banal these people are. Tensions arise over mundane issues like comparisons with contemporary painters, money, Vincent's recurring mental problems, romance, and so on.
The visuals look really good. Cinematography is competent and unobtrusive. Costumes and prod design seem authentic for the period and suggest strong tendencies toward a Victorian, prim, pretentious culture. Casting is acceptable. Acting is very good because it is so understated. Pace trends slow. There's very little music in this film, and no score; which conveys a sense of realism as people come and go amid the perfunctory activities of everyday life.
It's been said that legends don't look like legends when they are being made. I think that applies to Van Gogh, here. He's just another painter worrying about his art, suffering from mental and/or physical ailments, and surrounded by banal people. That would not be Hollywood's approach to this famous artist. But it's an approach that's far more realistic and believable. The legend stuff would come later.
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