LOVING VINCENT – A Review by Cynthia Flores

LOVING VINCENT – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Close your eyes and imagine you can step inside your favorite van Gogh painting. Can you envision how incredible that would be seeing his master pieces come to life?  Well, the new animated film Loving Vincent, lets us all get a taste of that kind of magic. The film is an amazing, and is completely hand painted in oil paint. There’s no computer generated anything here.  It took 4 years to develop the technique, and then it took another 2 more years with a team of over 100 painters working at studios in Poland and Athens, Greece to complete the film.  When you see this amazing film you are looking at over 65,000 frames on over 1,000 canvases. They shot the film with actors, and then literally painted over it frame by frame.  The director has said that the reason they made the film this way is not because they wanted to be the first, or break any kind of records, it was because they truly believed that they could not actually tell Vincent’s story without his paintings, so they needed to bring his paintings to life.
By doing it this way, they used the people Vincent painted to tell his story. Part of the story is that on July 27, 1890, a thin figure stumbled down the street at twilight in the small French country town of Auvers. He had his hands clasped to a fresh bullet wound and was bleeding from his belly. It was the then little known artist, Vincent van Gogh, now one of the most famous artists in the world. His Starry Night, Cafe Terrace at Night, Sunflowers, Wheatfield with Crows and his own face from his many self-portraits are among the most recognized images in art. He stumbled up the stairs to his room and took two days to finally die from his wound.
Vincent was not only famous for his paintings, but also his tortured life. Particularly, for cutting off his own ear to give to a prostitute and also for allegedly shooting himself while painting at his easel. A bitter end to his sad misunderstood life. He was the world’s original ‘tortured artist’.  His tragic death by gunshot was always questioned and shrouded in mystery. Was it suicide like he told his brother who sat at his bedside as he lay dying or was it something else?
This brilliant new film, Loving Vincent, tells that story by introducing us to the people and places Vincent painted. We start with the postman Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd) who was a loyal friend to Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) when he was alive, and who didn’t buy into the story that his friend killed himself. So, finding a letter from VIncent to his beloved brother, Theo, which was returned as undeliverable, he decides to send his hot-blooded son, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) on a mission to deliver the letter by hand to Theo and find out what really happened to Vincent. His son is a reluctant detective, never really caring for his father’s erratic drinking buddy when he was around. He saw Vincent on the night he cut off his ear so doesn’t think it’s too much of a stretch for him to have killed himself.  But, his father insists, so he heads to Paris. Once there he can’t find Theo anywhere.  He’s directed to Pere Tanguy (John Sessions), the paint seller that lets him know that Theo died shortly after Vincent did. He says, “They were two hearts, but only one mind”. He also educates Armand by revealing that Vincent wasn’t some delusional loner and was actually famous among the artistic elite in Paris. Pere can’t understand why Vincent would commit suicide when he seemed to be on the brink of stardom. He tells Armand to go to Auvers, the scene of the crime to seek answers from Vincent’s eccentric Dr. Gachet (Jerome Flynn). There he finds more than he expected, including a deeper understanding of the kind, genius that was van Gogh.
I am a big fan of animated films and enjoy their artistry. So the fact that this is so rooted in the actual art world, instead of some far off planet with talking dogs, got my attention when I first heard about it. After experiencing the movie Loving Vincent, I was blown away seeing the love and sheer genius of how the filmmakers had chosen to tell van Gogh's story by going back to the medium from which he created his 800 paintings during a short eight year career AND using his own style to animate his story. This is an animated masterpiece that brilliantly makes your heart ache for Vincent and the life he led.   Mark my words, because I know it will be the one to beat come Oscar time. Loving Vincent is the must see film of the year.
Directed by Dorota Kobiea & Hugh Welchman
Written By  Dorota Kobiea & Hugh Welchman, Jacek Dehnel
Rated PG-13
Selig Rating A+
Running Time 94 min
Animation/ Biopic
Limited Release to Wide starting OCT 13 at Angelika Film Center
Starring:  Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlins, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Adian Turner, Helen McCrory
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
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