A rather unequivocal biopic based on Irving Stone’s eponymous novel that traverses van Gogh’s adult life, LUST FOR LIFE is the sum of its parts as assembled by its creator—pure mise en scène, perhaps more so than any other of Minnelli’s films (which is saying a lot). That might be because he was given decidedly more freedom with this one.
Van Gogh as vulgar auteur, castigated for his lack of form but capable of expressing things the "masters" never could. Kirk Douglas seems ill-matched for the role but doesn't play against type so much as channel that type into something boldly different. Metrocolor can't do all Minnelli needs it to here, but the impressionistic fades in and out of VG's art and the world that spawned them is sublime.
This film works in spite of the fact that it shouldn't. A film about the life of Van Gogh shouldn't have been made during the 50s in the Hollywood system when it couldn't be told as gritty or real as other film eras would allow and it shouldn't have starred an alpha male movie star like Douglas as the frail, sensitive artist. Yet the film works annd Douglas gives one of his best performances.
Contrary to what others may think, I actually praise Kirk Douglas' portrayal as the maddening Vincent Van Gogh as the highlight of the film. This, coupled with the beautiful landscapes, settings, and atmosphere made for a really inspiring film. And there aren't too many of those nowadays...it was the kind of film that made me want to pick up a brush. I felt it dragged and started rough, but otherwise great.
"The leaves if they were the only things in sight they would have one color, their own. But the shades and reflection of everything around, the sky, the earth, the water, give them more than their own color."
" If I'm to be anything as a painter I've got to break through that iron wall between what I feel and what I express. my best chance of doing it is here, where my roots are... the people I know, the earth I know. "
Not bad, certainly had it's moments, but ultimately I didn't think it was anything particularly captivating. Kirk Douglas puts in a typically excellent (not to mention emotive) performance as Van Gogh...but it's a particularly theatrical version. I found the tone to be a bit too melodramatic; a bit over-the-top...as if Van Gogh was James Dean fighting against the world.