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Review: Loving Vincent

Fantastic Planet reawakened my appetite for nontraditional animation, so today, I ventured out to Sunshine Cinema to see Loving Vincent, a beautifully-crafted tribute to Vincent van Gogh in the style of his own work.

Akira Kurosawa attempted to capture a similar visual aesthetic in a segment of Dreams—with the artist portrayed by Martin Scorsese, of all people—but the evolution of cinematic technology (at least some of the rotoscoping seems to have been digitally assisted) has allowed directors Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman to create a truly living, breathing oil painting. Many frames exhibit a wonderfully tactile quality, as though if you touched the screen, your fingertips might come back wet and stained phthalo blue. In the era of CGI, it’s refreshing to find a movie in which you can literally see the filmmakers’ painstaking effort in every brushstroke.

In terms of plot, the screenwriters adopt a narrative structure reminiscent of Citizen Kane: following Van Gogh’s alleged suicide, the troubled young man tasked with delivering his final letter tracks down and interviews several of his friends and acquaintances—a haughty housekeeper, the gossipy proprietress of a modest inn, and more than one eccentric doctor, to name a few—in the hopes of unraveling the mysteries and contradictions surrounding his life and death. To be completely honest, this type of story has been better told elsewhere, but the myriad conflicting perspectives and lack of any easy, concrete answers ultimately add up to one of the most complex, nuanced, and thoroughly captivating portraits of the revered painter ever committed to celluloid.

[Originally written September 29, 2017.]

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