Bethlehem Press

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Movie Review: ‘Loving Vincent’ is cinematic art

Friday, November 10, 2017 by Paul Willistein in Focus

“Loving Vincent” is a cinematic work of art. The film, which is much more than Vincent van Gogh’s paintings brought to life, is by turns a “CSI” or “Forensic Files” psychological thriller.

Without setting up a “Spoiler Alert!” here, the storyline in “Loving Vincent” (It’s a somewhat unfortunate title in that van Gogh seemed incapable of loving himself, but readily and eagerly embraced the world, people, and everything and everyone in it. Then again, maybe the title is the height of irony.) has to do with the how he died. The film also celebrates how he lived.

The film is a companion piece to “Lust For Life” (1956), the Hollywood movie in which Kirk Douglas channeled van Gogh. After seeing “Loving Vincent,” you’ll never hear Don McLean’s “Vincent” (1971) song the same way again. “Something we can gaze upon, but don’t fully understand,” one character aptly describes van Gogh’s work. Much the same can be said of “Loving Vincent.”

The film’s palette echoes van Gogh’s own palette: vibrating predominantly deep blue and sunflower yellow. The rough edges of van Gogh’s technique, including built-up surfaces not unlike finger-painting, burns in the movie-goer’s mind’s eye.

Van Gogh’s well-known paintings (for example, “The Starry Night,” 1889; “The Church at Auvers,” 1890) seem to come to life before your very eyes. Van Gogh and the other characters talk, walk and interact as would any animated character. (Sitting in my usual seat in the third row at Civic Theatre of Allentown, I found it enjoyable to view the film without glasses. With glasses on, I found the film to be a bit overstimulating.)

According to the film’s publicists, “Loving Vincent” is said to be “the first fully painted animated feature film. The film’s 65,000 frames is “an oil painting on canvas,” created by 125 painters.

Dorota Kobiela (director, “The Flying Machine,” 2011) and Hugh Welchman (theatrical feature film directorial debut) directed based on a screenplay they wrote with Jacek Dehnel (theatrical feature film screenplay debut).

In “Loving Vincent,” the story unfolds one year after the death of van Gogh (voiced by Robert Gulaczyk). A postman named Roulin (Chris O’Dowd) asks his son, Armand (Douglas Booth), to deliver van Gogh’s last letter to his brother, Theo.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of van Gogh’s death, Armand “interviews” Dr. Gachet (Jerome Flynn), Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan), Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory), Père Tanguy (John Sessions), Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson), and a Boatman (Aidan Turner), each a subject for van Gogh’s canvas.

Van Gogh started to paint at age 28. Between November 1881 and July 1890, van Gogh painted almost 900 paintings. None of his paintings sold publicly. Brother Theo was his main means of support.

In “Loving Vincent,” flashbacks to stories recounted to Armand are presented in black and white. These seem like silent movies and are unnervingly realistic. Composer Clint Mansell (“Requiem For A Dream,” “Black Swan”) adds to the film’s elegance.

An unusual aspect of “Loving Vincent” is, pun intended, the film’s aspect ratio, or format, of 1.33:1, which is similar to the 16mm format and not the standard 35mm modern aspect ratio (16:9) that theatrical movie-goers are accustomed to. This was done to try to recreate van Gogh’s compositions.

Look for an Oscar nomination for “Loving Vincent,” a deserved Oscar recipient. Don’t miss it on the big screen.

“Loving Vincent,”MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for mature thematic elements, some violence, sexual material and smoking; Genre: Animation, Biography, Crime; Run time: 1 hr. 34 mins.; Distributed by Good Deed Entertainment.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” by Don McLean is performed by Lianne La Havas during the closing credits of “Loving Vincent.”

Box Office,Nov. 3: “Thor: Ragnarok” proved it’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe (the 17th film) after all, opening at No. 1 summer-blockbuster style with $121 million, spiriting “A Bad Moms Christmas” way back at No. 2, with $17 million for the weekend and $21.5 million since opening Nov. 1, scattering “Jigsaw” from No. 1, down two places, $6.7 million, $28.8 million, two weeks. 4. ”Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” was scared down two places, $4.6 million, $42.9 million, three weeks; 5. “Geostorm” blew down two places, $3 million, $28.7 million, three weeks; 6. “Happy Death Day” died down two places, $2.8 million, $52.9 million, four weeks; 7. “Thank You for Your Service” dropped one place, $2.2 million, $7.3 million, two weeks; 8. “Blade Runner” skated down two places, $2.2 million, $85.4 million, five weeks; 9. “Only the Brave” blazed down two places, $1.9 million, $15.2 million, three weeks; 10. “Let There Be Light” brightened up one place, $1.6 million, $4 million, two weeks. 21. “Loving Vincent” moved up two places, $590,195, on only 205 screens, $3 million, seven weeks.

Unreel,Nov. 10:

“Murder on the Orient Express,”PG-13: Kenneth Branagh directs a cast as star-studded as the 1974 version based on the Agatha Christie novel. All aboard this time, in addition to Kenneth Branagh, are Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, and Daisy Ridley. The crime drama takes place on a train ride where 13 strangers try to solve a murder mystery before the murderer strikes again.

“Daddy’s Home 2,”PG-13: Sean Anders directs Linda Cardellini, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, and Will Ferrell in the comedy sequel about those obnoxious fathers wreaking mayhem at home for the holidays.

Five Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes