Visually, Loving Vincent is an unmissable and unique cinematic event – a hand-painted animated work in Van Gogh’s style. Dramatically, it’s ho-hum.
Loving Vincent is one of those films that shows up star ratings for what they are – an absurdly reductive assessment system.
Visually, the film is truly phenomenal, a spectacular cinematic event. It’s an animated work in the style of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, which in itself is a fascinating concept. However, the real jaw-dropper is the unique manner of execution of the visuals, and this is what really sets this work apart. Each of the frames (60,000+) is an oil painting on canvas, hand-painted by a team of over 100 professional artists. Some feat! And a glorious folly in an era where the same effect could have been far more easily and cheaply achieved using digital techniques.
As might be expected, the visuals are arresting, dancing and shimmering with Van Gogh’s primary colours and bold brush strokes, but the novelty of seeing the world depicted through the great artist’s eye wears thin. Indeed, Van Gogh in jerky animated motion is such an assault on the senses, and the visual information such a lot to take in, that it all becomes a bit draining after a time. That feels like a mean-spirited comment to make about an extraordinary labour of love. What can I say?
Dramatically, the piece is mediocre at best. The narrative is a sort of whodunnit investigating the death of Van Gogh a year on. The ‘detective’ is Armand (voiced by Douglas Booth), the son of Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd), a postman and friend of Van Gogh who was the subject of one of his famous portraits. Charged with the task of delivering the last letter Van Gogh wrote, Armand ends up in Auvers-sur-Oise, the town in which he died. Conversations with some of the residents arouse Armand’s curiosity and he sets out to discover whether the artist’s fatal gunshot wound to the stomach was self-inflicted, as officially declared, or otherwise.
While there have been theories put forward that Van Gogh was murdered, the story as it is presented here seems rather clunkily concocted around characters and scenes from his paintings, some of which are directly referenced (eg: The Starry Night, Wheatfield with Crows).
The voiced performances are OK, but I must admit to a distaste for Brit actors taking the parts of non-English-speaking characters. That decision was probably commercially based, but I think the film would have been better served by casting Dutch and French actors and adding English sub-titles. It’s not as if a film like this is likely to have mass appeal in the Anglo marketplace.
In summary, Loving Vincent is unmissable for its visuals, especially if you’re a Van Gogh fan (I am), but let down by a ho-hum narrative. See what I mean – how do you incorporate that conflicting assessment in a star rating?
Movie website: http://lovingvincent.com/
Loving Vincent features: Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Chris O’Dowd
Directors: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Writers: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Jacek Dehnel
Runtime: 94 min
Australian release date: Loving Vincent screening in Australian cinemas from 2 Nov 2017
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