I have an average knowledge when it comes to the classic artists and my ability as an artist was minimal. I could draw cartoon characters that cracked my friends up in school, but that’s about it. When I was in New York once, I made a point of going to the Guggenheim. Some of the big name artists’ work didn’t do much for me, while other pieces really moved me. One thing you are amazed by, is the history of these people. You think back to what their lives were like. Some of them dying penniless, and their art not being appreciated until much later. I had always heard that Vincent van Gogh had never sold a painting while he was alive.
What I knew about van Gogh was what I learned watching the movie 1956 movie Lust for Life with Kirk Douglas. I thought about that movie when Woody Allen recreated that movie poster for Midnight in Paris. It shows Owen Wilson walking down a street in Paris, with van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” above his head. It was such a beautiful movie poster, I ended up getting one. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that somebody would take that concept a step further. Instead of a movie poster combining a real van Gogh painting, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman wrote and directed a movie that uses over a hundred artists, painting 65,000 frames to animate the film. It’s the first time this has ever been done on film, and the labor of love took over six years. It’s a safe bet to say…this will be the most beautiful film you’ll see this year. Obviously, any artist or fan of art has to see it. And if your knowledge of the 19th-century Dutch painter consists of merely knowing he cut off his ear and had it delivered to a dame…you need to see this.
The closest I can think to compare this with were the movies A Scanner Darkly or Waking Life, which nobody saw. Or, the A-ha video for “Take on Me,” which only folks that were teenagers in the ‘80s will remember.
One of the few scenes I liked in the Robin Williams movie What Dreams May Come is when he dies and his heaven is being inside the painting his wife had done. The way that painting came to life visually was gorgeous. That’s what this movie does, as the camera delves into the paintings, and we hear letters and stories about van Gogh. You’ll be taken into a farmer’s field one minute, or a seedy bar the next.
A villager named Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) brings a letter to van Gogh’s brother Theo, a year after the artist’s suicide. Roulin had been in a number of portraits. He speaks with many about van Gogh’s life, as we’re transported into the paintings themselves.
A few of the other voices you’ll hear are Chris O’Dowd and Saorise Ronan (Brooklyn).
All told, you’re going to see 130 of the 800 oil paintings, which started the modern art movement.
Often times when a movie is made about somebody that’s no longer around, we speculate as to what that person would’ve thought of the portrayal. It’s safe to say, that if Vincent van Gogh were alive, he’d be delighted by this project. It’s the greatest tribute to an artist that’s ever been made.
The movie is going to open at the Landmark Ken Cinema on Adams Avenue, and for the 7:35 showing on Friday and Saturday night, I’ll interview two of the artists from the film, as well as a Q&A. Don’t miss it.