BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in July 2007We've left it here for reference.More information

13 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Reviews

BBC Homepage
Entertainment
Film

»[an error occurred while processing this directive] 

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 


12 Van Gogh (1991)
Reviewed by Jamie Russell

updated 27th June 2003

reviewer's rating
five star
User Rating 4 out of 5



Director

Maurice Pialat
Writer

Maurice Pialat
Star

Jacques Dutronc
Alexandra London
Gérard Séty
Bernard Lecoq
Length

158 minutes
Distributor

Artificial Eye
Original

1991
Cinema

8th August 2003
Country

France
Genre

Drama
World Cinema

How was it for you?

 1 out of 5  1
 2 out of 5  2
 3 out of 5  3
 4 out of 5  4
 5 out of 5  5

Average rating:
4 from 84 votes


User Comments & Reviews
» Read other users' reviews
» Write your own review





Haggard, exhausted and on the verge of wasting away, the Vincent Van Gogh of Maurice Pialat's biopic is more of a ragged tramp than a great master. Picking up Van Gogh's life story in the months before he committed suicide in 1890, Pialat avoids all the usual ear-slicing mythmaking in favour of a portrait of the artist as a melancholic old man.

Unlike other, more famous, Van Gogh movies, Pialat spends remarkably little time watching the artist at work. Instead, he charts his antagonistic relationships with those around him, including his art dealer brother Theo (Bernard Lecoq), kindly patron Dr Gachet (Gérard Séty) and Gachet's daughter, Marguerite (Alexandra London), who falls for the painter's unbalanced charms.

On the few occasions that Pialat contrives to let us watch the artist at his easel, Jacques Dutronc's phenomenal intensity comes to the fore. He wrestles with each stroke of the brush, beating the paint into submission with bestial ferocity, before dismissively abandoning each canvas as "smudges that will never be worth a cent".

The actor discovers a tragic irony underlying Van Gogh's sense of overwhelming failure as, surrounded by cowards and weaklings too afraid or stupid to admit to his greatness, he hounds himself towards the inevitable end, destroying everything in his wake and little realising the importance of his work.

What makes "Van Gogh" so remarkable, though, is Pialat and Dutronc's refusal to fit this suicidal descent into the usual rhythms of the biopic. Conjuring a performance that's constantly full of surprises, Dutronc flirts with his character's despair, swinging from depression to elation with bewildering speed.

It's a performance that makes "Van Gogh" worthy of being called a masterpiece in its own right.



Find out more about "Van Gogh" at
Movie Review Query Engine
The Internet Movie Database
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

 Where can I see this film? Town 




About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy