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Great actors, great artist, great director - WHAT HAPPENED?
I'm a big Van Gogh fan and not only do I love Dafoe but his face is perfect for Van Gogh. Schnabel is a filmmaker I have come to trust. For extra credit, this was written by Bunuel's scenarist. On top of all this, it turns out an old friend of mine did the costumes.
What's not to like?
Well, long wordless walks through beautifully photographed landscapes with Elvira Madigan style piano providing the emotion (along with portentous close-ups of Dafoe's face). The type of story telling which provides episodic vignettes without either explaining them (I know some of the backstory only because I know the painter's life) or crafting them into a sustained narrative. Spme over-clever cinematographic tricks. Producer John Kilik said Schnabel didn't want to make a "forensic" biopic. Fair enough, but story doesn't have to grow out of dry biographical details. This approach was just too scattered to build any momentum - as opposed to Van Gogh's own letters, which start wandering and formless but develop intensity and momentum as he builds towards both success and self-destruction.
Years ago, Schnabel had thought of directing the novel "Perfume", which he would have done wonderfully. Unfortunately those who got there first produced a bloodless, precious piece which gave no taste of the novel's vigorous forward movement. Ironically, he has done something similar with Van Gogh's life.
I look forward to seeing work from everyone involved (including one surprise from Van Gogh.). But this was a wrong turn.
Otherwise, you might consider that David O. Russell - no slouch himself - was at the screening and LOVED the film. So there's that.
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