Loving Vincent

October 6, 2017

Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

People interested in what cinema can do should go and see it.
loving vincent

Loving Vincent

Julian Wood
Year: 2017
Rating: NA
Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman

Douglas Booth, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan

Distributor: Madman
Released: October 5 – 15, 2017, November 2, 2017
Running Time: 95 minutes
Worth: $18.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

People interested in what cinema can do should go and see it.

There is always something new in cinema which makes it the glorious medium that it is. And good on directors and artists for trying things. This film about the great artist Vincent Van Gogh is a first; the whole film is an oil painting, that is to say every frame (yes, all 37,000 of them) has been hand painted in oils by a team of different artists. It is a collaboration between various teams but the film comes out of Poland with a strong connection to Ireland. It is directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. Many well known Irish actors turn up playing the various people in Vincent’s life.

The film has a plot, sort of; we follow in the footsteps of Young Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth). He is the son of the old postmaster (Chris O’Dowd from The Sapphires, The IT Crowd, still strangely recognisable in his painterly disguise). Vincent painted the old postmaster who he had got to know because the man carried Vincent’s endless letters to his devoted brother Theo. Armand sets out to deliver one last letter and along the way he stumbles into the mystery surrounding the artist’s death. History records that poor old Vincent (who, had mental instability as is well documented) shot himself. He did so in the cornfield so gloriously recorded by him in that trademark sun-bright yellow.

The film tries to interest us in the idea that Vincent couldn’t have done himself in and that maybe he was shot and there was a cover up. After all, as Armand is told by various people who knew him, he was happy at that time in his life. In particular he had found a good place to paint and he had been befriended by his physician (himself a painter and would-be disciple of Vincent) Dr Gachet (Jerome Flynn). Armand also hears the testimony of Dr Gachet’s daughter Marguerite (Saoirse Ronan from Brooklyn), a radiant beauty Vincent loved.

Although it gives the film a semi-conventional narrative thread to draw us through, it isn’t in the end the most interesting thing about Vincent. In fact, the painter’s style – his direct path through to the ‘reality’ of things – is so luminous and timeless that all else pales into insignificance. Nor is it that Vincent was ‘lucky’ like some artists (he wasn’t lucky at all in commercial terms in his life, of course, which makes the price his works fetch now ironic), he was just supremely talented. As Degas said “art (painting) isn’t about what you see, it is what you can make others see”. Few did it like Van Gogh.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room. Is the unique realisation of this story a bit gimmicky, or does it really bring something out that only this technique could? There is no doubt that it will intrude in some senses as it is almost distractingly unique. You have to adjust to its mode and that feeling can come and go a bit. Because each frame is also a painting the animation does sometimes ‘flicker’ and it fails to settle in a way, which can be marginally annoying. It works for the more restless or movement-based sequences but is sometimes odd in the close ups. On the other hand, it very cleverly gets both action and facial expression and nuance in a way which brings it satisfyingly close to a blend of live acting and something else.

People interested in what cinema can do should go and see it. After all, why shouldn’t a unique artist have a unique film?

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