Loving Vincent

 

            There is no other film quite like this one.  It utilized 125 painting animators creating 65,000 oil-painted frames that incorporate 125 of Van Gogh's better-known works, a process that took ten years to complete.  Every image is artistic.  Most are in the bold, broad-brush style of Vincent Van Gogh; some are purposefully in black and white to present a stark contrast, but the overall effect is mesmerizing, and one-of-a-kind dazzling. Visually, this movie is simply stunning.

            Unfortunately, it all showcases a rather mediocre script with an unsatisfying ending.  The village postmaster's son, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), agrees to deliver Vincent's last letter to his next of kin, his beloved younger brother Theo.  But when Roulin journeys to Paris, he discovers that Theo died shortly after Vincent.  This drives Roulin to question everyone who knew Vincent, including his physician, his daughter, the proprietress of the hotel where he stayed, and even the boatmen along the river, where Vincent was known to have set up his easel and painted.

            What is known is that Vincent Van Gogh died of a gunshot wound, two days after the shooting.  What is not known is whether it was self-inflicted---though Vincent reportedly said it was, he may have been covering for someone else.  The motive is also unclear, whether it was murder or suicide.  Though Van Gogh was known to be “troubled,” he'd finally established himself as a painter (before that, he was, of all things, a missionary).  He completed some 800 works of art in that productive decade, and sold exactly one before he died.  He never knew fame or fortune, or even professional success.  And yet his work remains unique, even to the untrained eye.  Whether you classify it as “post-Impressionist” or “early modern” or whatever description you choose, his work defies description.  It's simply wondrous to behold.

            The movie ends without a clear answer about Van Gogh's last days, leaving it to the viewer to surmise what might have actually happened.  If he was murdered, no one was ever charged or arrested.  And neither was the doctor sued for malpractice.  Everybody just shook their heads and went home.  So the nature of his death remains as enigmatic as the mystery of his inspiration. 

            So what we have here in this movie is the triumph of style over substance.  You won't see another one quite like it.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association