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Van Gogh (1991)

The final sixty-seven days of Van Gogh's life is examined.

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2 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Vincent Van Gogh
Alexandra London ... Marguerite (Gachet)
Bernard Le Coq ... Théo Van Gogh
Gérard Séty ... Gachet
Corinne Bourdon ... Jo
... Cathy
Leslie Azzoulai ... Adeline Ravoux (as Leslie Azoulai)
Jacques Vidal ... Ravoux
Chantal Barbarit ... Madame Chevalier
Claudine Ducret ... Professeur de Piano
Frédéric Bonpart ... La Mouche
Maurice Coussonneau ... Chaponval
Didier Barbier ... L'Idiot
Gilbert Pignol
André Bernot ... La Butte Rouge
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Storyline

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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality and nudity | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

30 October 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ван Гог  »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$138,720
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1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Daniel Auteuil was originally considered for the part of Van Gogh, but he declined. The role was then proposed to Jean-Hugues Anglade, before Jacques Dutronc was finally cast. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cine Terapia: Cine Terapia - Diego Araujo (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Dexuième Symphonie, Pour Cordes
Arthur Honegger
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Direction: Charles Dutoit
Editions Salabert, Enregistrement : Erato Disques 45247
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A problem film, but a notable one
6 December 2015 | by See all my reviews

This long film, with Jacques Dutronc in the main role, is considered by the French to be Pialat's best. It seeks to be counter-intuitive -- and also to base its a-historical version of the artist on the conclusion that nobody who made that many paintings in the last 27 months of his life (which the film focuses on) could have been seriously impaired in function, either mental or physical; and that if he was crazy, he was high-functioning crazy. This Van Gogh has moody moments, but also laughs, drinks, has lots of sex, makes a lot of paintings, and doesn't have a cut ear. (Incidentally he also shows little sign of being Dutch; but neither did Kirk Douglas in Minelli's Lust for Life.) But this Van Gogh is also an enigma.

The best feature of Van Gogh is its eccentric, surprising period film naturalism, analogous to that of Rossellini's 1966 The Rise of Louis XIV/La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIX, or Pasolini's Neorealism- influenced period effects in The Gospel According to Matthew and his Decameron, Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights films. Probably Pialat couldn't have made this without the Nouvelle Vague and Jules et Jim behind him. Van Gogh's best moments are just throwaways that make scenes seem more "real" because they have little to do with advancing the "plot" or with "character development" -- like the choo-choo train cigarette puffing scene in Jules et Jim. Pialat's biggest influence as a filmmaker is said to be Jean Renoir. But in his Chicago Reader review Jonathan Rosenaum mentions Bresson and notes Bresson called his actors "models." Dutronc is very assured but is a non-actor, a singer primarily. As Theo the film uses the rather wooden Bernard Le Coq. In a sense they both, like the many extras who are or could be non-actors, are "models." And that, like most of the film, can be stimulating, but also frustrating, in a film about a figure people are so interested in.

The film excels at atmosphere, the way people wear their period clothes as if they were today's latest fashions, the everydayness of trains, meals, bars, and all the times Vincent refuses to eat or drink. And its key moments are its ensemble sequences, though one big one succeeds and the other fails. The highlight is a big collective picnic by the river Oise, with dancing, singing, Van Gogh doing an imitation of Lautrec and throwing himself in the river and getting fished out, and all in very long takes, with a wonderful, astonishing sense that we are right there the whole time. But the second long sequence, almost 20 minutes, is another story. It takes place in a Paris brothel with Vincent; Theo, away from Jo, his wife (Corinne Bourdon); Dr. Gachet's daughter Marguerite (a memorably vivacious Alexandra London) who's in love with Vincent and having an affair with him -- an invented plot twist; and a volatile prostitute Vincent has been involved with, Cathy (Elsa Zylberstein). This ambitious sequence meanders so much, is so unconvincing, and goes on so long, it winds up becoming merely boring and dreary and ruining the whole film at the point that should be its climax. In the end it is just confusion and debauchery, a distraction from whatever this is about; but that's where the film is best, otherwise. This is reminiscent of the long dance in Philippe Garrel's Regular Lovers/Les amants réguliers: but that becomes a magic moment, and is more germane because it's a film about a lost generation, not the end of a great artist. But if Pialat's Van Gogh is a failure it is a great failure.

Van Gogh's death is disconcertingly real, without poetry or drama, merely flat and grim. And then it's over, with a couple of hints in posthumous scenes of how famous Van Gogh will be. But there have been enough living and thought-provoking moments to make this a distinctive film and maybe one that says something about its ostensible subjects. Such a failure is, though frustrating, better than many people's successes.

Van Gogh (incidentally the French pronounce it "Van Gog," to rhyme with "jog"), 158 mins., opened theatrically in France 30 Oct. 1991, in the USA the same day in 1992. Vincent Canby wrote an understanding and clear review for the NY Times. Watched on a disk from Netflix 6 Dec. 2015, which has the option of no subtitles, English subtitles, or French ones, an unusual feature on US DVD's and a handy one.


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