Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Tim Roth, Paul Rhys, Robert Altman, Stephen Altman, Adrian Brine
Directors: Robert Altman, Greg Carson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
The eternal struggle between madness and genius takes its toll on the brothers Van Gogh in this "luminous" (LA Weekly) masterpiece from Academy AwardŽ-nominated* director Robert Altman. Tim Roth and Paul Rhys give "stupend... more »
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J from NY | New York | 06/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Robert Altman has with this film accomplished something biographers, writers of fiction, art historians and yes, filmmakers, have failed at for so long: to give us a convincing portrayal of painter Vincent Van Gogh's life without falling too deeply into the harmful stereotype of "the mad genius" or trying to explain him away as a severely ill man who happened to have groundbreaking talent.
Both Tim Roth and Paul Rhys give exquisite, painful, but never over the top performances as two men who are intimately linked in a way that suggests something more than mere brotherhood. Outwardly they have very little in common aside from being biologically linked: Theo is an art curator who endures the daily trials of the average man with perhaps a little more poverty; Vincent is an isolated painter who operates from an area of the mind and spirit which allows him no rest and no integration into society.
Tim Roth's Van Gogh is a quietly explosive figure who walks in the avenues of his own unrelenting pain and occasional ecstasy at the revelations he has in the most uncanny situations--drawing a prostitue while defecating, for instance. He is in some ways the opposite of Kirk Douglas' overbearing, sentimental painter who begs the world to understand him. This Van Gogh just doesn't care and sneers at the world unless it really bothers him, and then he lets everyone know how he's feeling in a way that is not to be ignored.
Rhys make Theo as interesting if not more. He is also "somewhere else", and not in the sense of a mere romantic cliche. He is a staid businessman but, like his brother, he is violently unable to reconcile himself to the world around him which is mostly composed of phonies and mediocrities. Throughout all the emotional outburts, all the ferocious fights between the two, there is an elusive thread of understanding that ties the two tightly together.
The scenes in which Vincent paints are not pleasant, as they are in so many other films. His agitation grows throughout the film though Roth plays it with a kind of poker faced approach. The lilies, flowers and all the things he sees so intensely do not bring him pleasure but buzz at him, attack his mind, creating the impossible desire to communicate his vision to others.
When Vincent realizes his "psychologist" is a corrupt, patronizing hack and that he is far too gone to be brought back to reality, his suicide is cold and impulsive. The rest of the movie is like a car crash. Theo cannot live without his brother and can no longer maintain the social fictions that allowed him to make a living before. And his syphillis is beginning to destroy him.
This movie is a masterpiece and will probably be the cinematic last word on the relationship between these two legendary figures in the history of art.
A dark film under a bright sun
A. Siering | Austin, TX | 05/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is my favorite Altman film, and I think arguably his best film. However it is unquestionably the best film on Van Gogh.
My title for this review states that this is a dark film, perhaps a more fitting adjective would have been sober. The overall mood is fairly stern as Vincent's own mood appears to have been as well.
I can understand why some people may feel this film is insipid (although the adjective used by another reviewer was dull), the same way I could understand why many people might feel that Van Gogh's paintings are brutish and simplistic if it weren't for the fact they've constantly been told otherwise by the art establishment. In the end I just believe Altman nailed his subject, and this film ranks as one of the very best biographies on Van Gogh.
Tim Roth's performance was also very very good, and while so was Kirk Douglas' melodramatic performance in Lust for Life (a 1956 Hollywood film about Van Gogh), Roth has probably given us something much closer to the truth.
In short this film probably gets us as close to the reality of Vincent's last few years as we're able to come, and this ironically might be why some people dislike the film. Despite the popular image of Van Gogh as an expressionistic, even manic, personality, he was, the evidence suggests, a pensive, inflexible man who exuded an oppressive seriousness. No matter how much you like his paintings, now, he probably wasn't a person whose company you would have enjoyed, then."
Mr. Steiner | New York | 12/08/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Although Robert Altman is proficient in re-creating the scenery of Van Gogh's life through the eyes of the painter with striking color and a vaguely bohemian atmosphere, he still fails to present Van Gogh the man or the artist in with any genuine originality. He focuses on Van Gogh, the tormented saint-artist, who forges ahead on the canvas with a drive to present the "suffering" of humanity. However, Altman precludes Van Gogh's obvious manias, his periods of demented elation. It is impossible to believe that the Van Gogh presented here could have produced those vibrant wheat fields in Arles, or the Night Café. What remains in this fractured (though never incompetent biopic), is Tim Roth's virtuoso performance; he managed to literally crawl into the skin of Van Gogh, and the result may frighten you. However, his virtuosity always overshadows Paul Rhys' rather tepid presentation of his brother Theo, though there are other admirable performances in the film, such as Wladimir Yordanoff's amiable presentation of Gauguin. Altman seems to be commenting, rather uninterestingly, about the commercial dimension of artistry, and of the impossibility of true recognition of genius. This is a conventional portrait of the unrecognized genius, it is a tale told again and again. However, Altman's imagery is captivating (with the help of Storraro), the photography looks like vibrant haloes emitted by Van Gogh's paintings, though the musical score is dreadful and morbid. Still you much watch this one for Tim Roth's inspired performance if nothing else."
Yural Bayet | New York and Berlin | 03/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is powerful, poetic and highly evocative of the most likely real relationship between Vincent and Theo. You constantly feel the underlying stress and yet great love between the two brothers.
It takes an artist like Robert Altman (and his son Stephen the set designer) to make great film about a great artist.