Loving Vincent (2017)

  • Time: 95 min
  • Genre: Animation | Biography | Crime
  • Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
  • Cast: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Helen McCrory, Robert Gulaczyk

Storyline:

A year after the death of the artist, Vincent van Gogh, Postman Roulin gets his slacker son, Armand, to hand deliver the artist’s final letter to his now late brother, Theo, to some worthy recipient after multiple failed postal delivery attempts. Although disdainful of this seemingly pointless chore, Armand travels to Auvers-sure-Oise where a purported close companion to Vincent, Dr. Gachet, lives. Having to wait until the doctor returns from business, Armand meets many of the people of that village who not only knew Vincent, but were apparently also models and inspirations for his art. In doing so, Armond becomes increasingly fascinated in the psyche and fate of Van Gogh as numerous suspicious details fail to add up. However, as Armond digs further, he comes to realize that Vincent’s troubled life is as much a matter of interpretation as his paintings and there are no easy answers for a man whose work and tragedy would only be truly appreciated in the future.

2 reviews

  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)

    GRADE: B

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: An visual and artistic success that paints its subject with the heaviest of brushstrokes in its muddled narrative structure.

    SYNOPSIS: An animated film about the death of Vincent Van Gogh rendered in his painting style.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 34 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s love affair with the work of Vincent Van Gogh are on display in their full length animated homage, Loving Vincent. This tribute to one of the most lauded (posthumously) and greatest artist of all time tells the tragic death of the painter by making his Impressionist artwork that come to life. The filmmakers gathered a team of talented craftspeople together to film live action actors to tell the story and then meticulously paint over the actual actors in Van Gogh’s signature painting style. The results are truly astonishing, even if the story becomes problematic (as with most animated films of late).

    The brushstrokes are frequent and fluid as they transition from scene to scenes. Glorious golds swirl seamlessly with royal blues, and the effect is state-of-the-art animation that, well, impresses, particularly in its vivid color palette, detailed portraiture, and use of light and shadow effects. However some of its figures in a landscape appear stiff and uninspired at times. Realistically rendered black and white flashback sequences contrast with more colorful scenes that come directly from Van Gogh’s paintings and serve as a backdrop to the plot. But take away the stunning visual look of the film, and it is quite remarkable, and the story doesn’t hold up.

    The story focuses on Van Gogh’s final days and becomes a whodunit of sorts, a conspiracy theory for art lovers everywhere. Did Vincent really commit suicide or was it murder? A silly premise that haunts the visual sweep of this film. Paging Hercule Poirot!

    One wishes the screenplay would have spent more time focusing on the life of the artist rather than his semi-mysterious death. The narrative opportunities remain confused and simplistic. It’s all talk, dull talk at that, with little action. The lines (or strokes) blur the truth with fiction and creates a false sense of reality. Were more time spent on a far-fetched theory that served as the film’s major story-line, this film would be perfection. Instead we will settle for a gorgeously animated movie with much to see and little to say except conjecture.

    Yet there is much to admire in their creative vision. The filmmaker’s own work of passion is evident in every frame of this film. The fact that it took ten years to complete this project shows the earnestness and dedication of all the artisans involved.

    Visually arresting but unconvincing story-wise, Loving Vincent just gives off the wrong Impression, no matter how lovely it is to behold.

    ANY COMMENTS: Please contact me at: jadepietro@rcn.com

  • Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch painter ignored during his time but much celebrated after his death, died at the age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Or did he? Using the theory first put forth in Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s 2011 Van Gogh: The Life, directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman offer an Agatha Christie-like whodunit covering the artist’s last months in the animated biographical drama Loving Vincent.

    “How does a man go from being absolutely calm to suicidal in six weeks?” The answer to that question is sought by the film’s narrator and sleuth, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) who, during the course of the film, vacillates between sceptic and sympathiser. Roulin has been tasked by his father (Chris O’Dowd) to deliver Vincent’s final letter to his beloved brother Theo. Recalling the time Van Gogh presented his mutilated ear to a local prostitute, Armand, who was the subject of several of Van Gogh’s paintings, views the artist as a crazy man well deserving of the ostracism he received from the townspeople. Armand’s father disagrees, reasoning that it was that same shunning that broke the mentally unstable artist, and convinces him to deliver the letter.

    Thus Armand journeys to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh spent his final months, encountering characters with conflicting opinions of the Dutchman. Amongst them, paint supplier Pere Tanguy (John Sessions), young Marguerite (Saoirse Ronan) for whom he may have had more than a fondness, and her father, Doctor Gachet (Jerome Flynn), who was present for Van Gogh’s final moments and who may have been a significant factor in Van Gogh’s emotional turnabout. Another doctor, Mazery (Bill Thomas), doubts Van Gogh pulled the trigger on himself, instead opining that the perpetrator was a local boy who often tormented the artist.

    In truth, Armand’s investigative interviews are not particularly interesting and they often render Van Gogh’s paradoxical complexities as trite and stereotypical. Yet the narrative is clearly secondary to the filmmakers’ main focus, which is to create a visual homage to the painter. On that front, the film is an impressive achievement; over 100 artists were used to ensure that every frame is impeccably hand-painted and then animated into life. Not only is the film done in the style of Van Gogh, but 94 of his works have been meticulously incorporated, which makes Loving Vincent a must-see for Van Gogh enthusiasts.

    As remarkable an accomplishment as it is, perhaps what’s most noteworthy about the filmmakers’ method is how the animated renderings dilute the power of their comparatively static sources. Van Gogh’s works were immersive and brimming with life – his brushstrokes were lusty breaths, his colours radioactive – and, despite the tremendously painstaking effort by the filmmakers and their team of artists, Loving Vincent is but a pale imitation.

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