Lov­ing Vin­cent

The Guardian - G2 - - Reviews Film - PB

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

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