Dirs: Hugh Welchman, Dorotea Kobiela. Voices: Robert Gulaczyk, Helen Mccrory. 93 mins. Cert: 12A
Here is an oddity: intriguing yet also exasperating, like a one-joke epic, or a monomaniacal act of stylistic pedantry. It’s an animation imagining the last months in the life of Vincent van Gogh; every frame is a pastiche of a Van Gogh canvas, and everything has avowedly been painted by hand. Landscapes pulse and throb, swirl and scintillate; brushstrokes bristle on skies or people’s faces like autumn leaves. Sometimes specific images are coyly referenced although the film stops short of the sunflowers themselves. Actual, real oozing paint has been used – intricately, painstakingly. Audiences are entitled to ask: might not the same effect have been achieved much more easily with digital trickery from a laptop? It’s not clear. But the result is a continuously weird and dreamlike film for which dreaminess and weirdness may not have been always appropriate. Douglas Booth plays Armand Roulin, the son of local postmaster in Auvers-sur-oise, where Van Gogh ended his life in illness and poverty - this is the bearded Joseph, played by Chris O’dowd. On the narrative pretext of delivering a letter from Van Gogh to his brother Theo, Armand makes it his business to discover what actually happened and he talks to many famous portrait subjects. It’s accomplished and, in a way, impressive. But it also becomes oppressive, self-admiring and even a bit pointless. Have we been plunged into Van Gogh Land, like Disneyland? As an exercise in style, Loving Vincent is of interest, but it doesn’t tell us that much about his work or his life.
If you go down to the woods today … Rafe Spall in The Ritual