In a story depicted in oil painted animation, a young man comes to the last hometown of painter Vincent van Gogh to deliver the troubled artist's final letter and ends up investigating his final days there.
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During a self-imposed exile in Arles and Auvers-Sur-Oise, France, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh develops his unique, colorful style of painting. While grappling with religion, mental illness and a tumultuous friendship with French artist Paul Gauguin, van Gogh begins to focus on his relationship with eternity rather than the pain his art causes him in the present.
Vincent Van Gogh:
I just want to be one of them. I would like to sit down with them and have a drink and talk about anything. I'd like them to give me some tobacco, a glass of wine, or even just ask me, "How are you today?" And I would answer, and we would talk. And from time to time I'd make a sketch of one of them as a gift. They would accept it, maybe, and keep it somewhere, and a woman would smile at me and ask, "Are you hungry? Would you like something to eat? A piece of ham, some cheese, or ...
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There's a mid-credits scene, where a Paul Gauguin quote is narrated. See more »
Impressionist view of the famed Post-Impressionist artist
Vincent Van Gogh is an artist seemingly tailor made for the movies - the brilliance, the madness, the short tragic life unappreciated in his time and....the ear! (the first I ever heard of Van Gogh was in elementary school. An artist so intense he cut his own ear off!? Cool!). Coming off last year's brilliantly animated LOVING VINCENT, comes the latest entry in the Van Gogh filmography, AT ETERNITY'S GATE.
Played by Willem Dafoe, this Van Gogh isn't given the traditional bio-pic treatment. It focuses on the last few months of the painter's life. The main details are there (including, yes, the ear incident), as are the characters such as Paul Gaugin (Oscar Isaac), Dr. Gachet (Mathieu Almaric) and, of course, his beloved brother Theo (Rupert Friend). Director Julian Schnabel (DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS) and his co-writers including the esteemed Jean-Claude Carriere (who's worked with the likes of Bunuel, Schlondorff, Godard and Wadja) give us more an impressionist* treatment. Abetted by Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme, we get a kaleidoscope of images, sounds and visions. Delhomme's hand-held camera-work takes some getting used to, and, quite frankly, can be a bit distracting at times (the demands supposedly forced the camera operator to give up on the opening shot and Delhomme had to operate himself!). Tatiana Livoskaia's minimalist score adds to the disjointed perspective.
Schnabel's fragmented style doesn't give the actors much room to breathe, but Dafoe et al. acquit themselves capably. The cumulative effect will certainly not be to everyone's taste (particularly those desiring a traditional biography), but, GATE is a vivid impression of what those final months may have been like. One artist's vision of another's.
* In the movie, Van Gogh and Gaugin discuss how they are more modernist than the classic school of Impressionism. They are often termed Post-Impressionist painters.
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