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Sunday, September 18, 2011

ART FILM FEATURE: LUST FOR LIFE





By Carter B. Horsley

Vincent Van Gogh is considered by many to have been the greatest painter of all time: an artist whose oeuvre abounds in masterpieces of brilliantly colored, intensely emotional works with bravura brushwork.

Van Gogh, however, was not successful during his lifetime and was tormented and was a misfit.

His passionate struggle to do something fine with his life is agonizing and even when he finally blossoms as an artist he is beset with severe mental problems, so much so that even in a flurry of incredible creativity he shoots himself.

His life is about unrequited love, a savage thirst to be "used" and to contribute somehow to alleviating humanity's harshness, and the passion to capture the beauty of life. It is also about the very, very touching love of his younger brother, Theo, who supported him unstintingly.

Because of his remarkable artistic genius, Van Gogh's suffering is extremely fascinating. One might be tempted to attribute his great artistic achievements to his suffering, but his suffering did not end with the maturing of his talents. So much for the psychiatric notion that understanding the nature of one's problems leads to their solutions.

Van Gogh apparently was a "manic depressive," and also a very impatient, abrupt, self-centered individual, consumed with his "persona," his destiny, and "at ease" only when feverishly working on his drawings and paintings.

His quest was the fundamental, basic search for a "meaningful" existence and perhaps because he was the son of a minister such meaning was equated to a great extent with "good works," the aiding and salvation of others. For a while, he thought of following in his father's footsteps but his unorthodoxy did not sit well with religious hierarchies although he did work for a while as a minister in a coal-mining village.

"Lust for Life" is the film version of Irving Stone's same-named biography of Van Gogh, which was based in large part of the letters of Van Gogh to his brother.

It is a spectacular achievement. Many of Van Gogh's original paintings are shown and the film faithfully recreates many of the scenes in some of his most famous works. Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh and Anthony Quinn as Paul Gauguin are uncannily like some of the artists' self-portraits and their performances are very, very memorable. (Also uncanny in resembling the subjects of famous Van Gogh portraits is the casting of Everett Sloane as Doctor Gachet, and Niall MacGinnis as Roulin.)

Read full article here.

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