The familiar tragic story of Vincent van Gogh is broadened by focusing as well on his brother Theodore, who helped support Vincent. The movie also provides a nice view of the locations which Vincent painted.
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The art of the ampersand: one brother who tries to conquer his weaknesses and live a straight, peaceful life, and one who rides his weaknesses to the pantheon on a filthy tidal wave of inspiration. "Commerce + Art" is a rich concept, one that's key to the movie industry, though the film meanders even by Altman standards. (It was a miniseries edited into a film). But the journey of volatility leaves you somewhere.
The risk with such a film is to fall in love with your cinematography, to care only for the right accessories, the right hat etc. Here are the characters alive, full of rage and imperfections. The madness expressed through colors, invading progressively VG's body is a great visual idea. Vincent & Theo act almost as twins, both prisoners of the same worriness. Would have liked to watch the 4h TV version though.
Roth & Rhys are both extraordinary, and editing, pacing, camerawork (the sunflowers!) etc. all work to accentuate their barely-contained, almost feral, intensity. (Bold score mostly does this, too, despite occasionally getting a little Tim Burton...) It's this making-visceral of that volatile, crazed energy, its infusion into every aspect of the film, that elevates V&T well beyond Standard Artist Biopic.
Outstanding Tim Roth performance and great production design and sceneries. The film also foreshadows The Player (1992) with its reflections about the fight between merchants (producers) and artists (directors). Recommended.
138 min cut - An exhausting and maddening biopic with nary a thought for exposition, instead occupying a rather unique sense of dread. Like Leigh's 'Mr. Turner' reflects the picturesque calm of its subject's paintings, this instead inhabits the precarious mental imbalance of the brothers with a style closest to a horror movie. The amazing: Roth, the score, the sunflower scene. Destabilises notions of period films.
With a terrific performance by Roth & sure-handed direction by Altman, this biopic starts off rather brilliantly. Contrasting a million-dollar auction w/ an argument between the brother's concerning money & Vincent's art. And while this is one of the strongest moments of the firm, it's unfortunate how up & down the quality of it all is. It would be interesting to see the 4-hour BBC version...
The opening scene, where Altman contrasts footage of a modern-day auction w/ the Van Gogh brothers arguing over Vincent's painting, is almost too effective--casting the themes of art and commerce into immediate, stark relief, it leaves the remaining two hours and change feeling oddly redundant, despite the top-notch craftsmanship throughout the film.