Welcome to the Panorama of the Mountains Blogging A to Z Challenge. This year I’m watching and reviewing movies from A-to-Z based on my ongoing Classic Movie Project. Most movies will be featured on one or more of three lists: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (USA), The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time (UK), and Cahiers du Cinéma Greatest Films of All Time (France). In some cases, I will be very creative in assigning a Classic Movie to a letter of the alphabet, and in a few cases the movie I watch will not be Classic Movies at all.
Title: Van Gogh
Release Date: 30 October 1991
Director: Maurice Pialat
Production Company: Erato Films | Le Studio Canal+ | Les Films du Livradois | Films A2
I admire the artwork of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. I’ve been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and seen his art at other museums, watched the film Loving Vincent animated in the style of his art, and “Vincent and the Doctor” is one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who. Despite all that, I am only familiar with the basics of Van Gogh’s biography, so I was looking forward to this film.
Jacques Dutronc portrays Van Gogh in the final two months of his life in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise on the outskirts of Paris. It’s largely a straightforward biopic, and Pialat’s approach eschews sentimentality and sensationalism. For example, the story takes place after Van Gogh mutilated his ear but Dutronc’s ears appear in perfect condition. The movie focuses less on Van Gogh as an artist and more on his interpersonal relationships. This means a lot of people being goofy about trying to find something to talk about with an artist and Van Gogh being incredibly grumpy about it.
Key relationships include Dr Paul Gachet (Gérard Séty) the physician and amateur artists who Van Gogh consults who is ultimately helpless in dealing with Van Gogh’s mental illness. Vincent also has several conflicts with his brother Theo (Bernard Le Coq), the art dealer who supports his career. Theo’s wife Jo (Corinne Bourdon) is sympathetic to Vincent and advocates for him. Van Gogh also forms a romantic and sexual relationship with Dr. Gachet’s daughter Marguerite (Alexandra London) while continuing an existing sexual relationship with Cathy (Elsa Zylberstein), a prostitute from Paris.
The movie is basically a sequence of Van Gogh having arguments and sex and there being very little emotion involved in either. I know it’s probably more my fault than the film’s but I had a lot of trouble watching this movie. I ended up watching it over the period of four days because it just couldn’t hold me attention. If the purpose of Van Gogh is to recreate the feeling of emptiness the leads a talented artist to chose suicide, it does its job. But ultimately I can’t say that is what I want from a film.