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.
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.
A very '50s take on van Gogh, with Douglas playing him as a Jimmy Dean misunderstood type with aspirations towards respectability. Gorgeous framing and use of colour, sensitive ellipses, strong performances and haunting music make this a classic. The farmer on his cart moving away from from the camera/canvas/Vincent as the gunshot rings out is the extraordinary highlight of a fine film.