Vincent Cassel, Tuhei Adams
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…a solid, poignant and engaging drama, though not a knockout.
Gauguin In Tahiti – to quote its full title – begins in Paris in 1891, with the artist planning to move to French Polynesia. Unfortunately, neither his friends nor – much more crucially – his wife (and kids) are prepared to accompany him. We know virtually as soon as we glimpse Vincent Cassel in the titular role that he’s perfectly cast – his craggy features are expressive in themselves – and that his performance will be as great as we’ve come to expect.
As we know, Paul Gauguin does of course proceed to follow his romantic vision and go it alone, spending years in Tahiti. His health is very poor and his art is not appreciated, but he does find inspiration. Not to mention love in the form of a new wife, Tehura (Tuhei Adams), and the film is at least as much a relationship saga as an aesthetic one.
Gauguin has been met with disappointment in some quarters for not being picture postcard/tropical paradise material, but it needn’t and indeed shouldn’t be. It’s largely a study in sustained melancholy, and as such a good combination of form and content. In any case, it’s not so much bleak as subdued in its early stages, when Gauguin finds a measure of contentment and fulfillment – chronic lack of money notwithstanding.
This is a solid, poignant and engaging drama, though not a knockout. The best thing about it, actually, is the absolutely superb instrumental soundtrack by Warren Ellis: some of the most evocative music he’s ever created, and certainly the best he’s done for a film.