Posts Tagged ‘Vincent van Gogh’

Sunflowers (2021) Exhibition on Screen

Dir: David Bickerstaff | Prod: Phil Grabsky | UK Do

Exhibition On Screen is a series of documentary portraits of painters and their iconic works. It goes behind the scenes at major galleries and museums offering insight from experts and curators and dramatised scenes that bring the artists to life.

David Bickerstaff and Phil Grabsky have already highlighted the letters and paintings of Van Gogh. This time the focus is on his famous paintings of sunflowers and how they inspired the artist to create a series of pictures that have become synonymous with the Dutch master and his tragic and extraordinary life. The image of the Sunflowers nowadays stands alongside the Mona Lisa as one of the best known and best loved images around the globe.

Van Gogh’s broad brush strokes and vibrant colour palette embody his passionate and intense nature in a prolific and struggling career that was partly funded by his brother Theo, whose letters to Vincent form part of an earlier film by the director duo (Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing) and Van Gogh in Japan. Other films focusing on the Dutch master are the animated 2017 drama Loving Vincent with Helen McCrory, and Maurice Pialat’s drama Van Gogh 

Here the focus is on the sunflowers that inspired five related paintings. These bold and honest flowers that embody beauty, strength and vulnerability somehow grew in significance. The weed-like crop native to the arid fields of France, Italy and Spain, became the subject of a work of art now worth millions of pounds. In the same way, the flowers connect with Van Gogh’s simple and soulful nature and his struggle to find meaning through his art that still resonates deeply with audiences today.

World authorities on Van Gogh’s work provide valuable insight amongst them Louis Van Tilborg from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and Chris Riopelle from the London’s National Gallery who take us behind the scenes to reveal the complexities surrounding the five famous depictions of the Arles Sunflowers from collections in London, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Munich and Amsterdam.

Meanwhile actor Jamie de Courcey (from A New Way of Seeing) again fleshes out the artist in dramatised sequences that attempt to show Van Gogh’s innermost thoughts about what the flowers really meant to him. MT

Sunflowers is released in cinemas across the UK from 8 June, including Curzon, Everyman, Odeon, Picturehouse, Showcase, Vue and independent cinemas. Find your nearest cinema at exhibitiononscreen.com

At Eternity’s Gate (2018) Netflix

Dir: Julian Schnabel | Cast: Willem Defoe, Oscar Isaac | US Drama | 111’

Julian Schnabel’s training as an artist informs another of his portraits of creativity like Basquiat, Reinaldo Arenas and Jean Dominique Bauby. With At Eternity’s Gate he turns his camera on the tragedy of Vincent van Gogh with this luminous vision of the artist’s final days in Provence.

There have been many broad brush insights into the painter’s troubled life recorders on the big screen; the most recent, Loving Vincent (2017) attempted a living painted drama of the Dutchman, while Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing (2015) explored the prodigious correspondence with his brother Theo. The reason to see this one is Willem Dafoe’s fabulous fleshing out of the artist in his febrile, sun-drenched final days after the breakdown of his fraught friendship with Gauguin (an unremarkable Oscar Isaac).

Schnabel captures the glowering intensity of Van Gogh’s desperate descent in paranoia but also portrays the artist as a gentle introvert who was as much misunderstood as maligned by the petit parochialism of his Provençal neighbours.

Benoit Delhomme’s hand-held camera hovers around feverishly and vivid yellow predominates. Intense and intimate close-ups pan out into flaming widescreen vistas vibrating in the summer heat. The worst element is Tatiana Lisovskaya’s screeching score that will make you run for the exit. It over-eggs the already over-baked picture of dismay and despair..

Jean Claude Carriere writes with Schnabel and Louise Kugelberg (the latter also his co-editor) to sketch out the broad strokes of the narrative which opens in Paris in the late 1880s where van Gogh is an already an outsider amongst the Artistes Independents du jour. His financier and brother Theo (a well-cast Rupert Friend) cannot sell his avant-garde works, Vincent opining: “God made me a painter for people who are not born yet”. Only Gauguin appreciates his talent but the two are incompatible as housemates. 

“Go south, Vincent,” Gauguin tells him when van Gogh complains of rainy skies and fog, whereupon he moves to Arles where he discovers his yen for landscapes which glow and shimmer in the heat as Delhomme’s visuals capture the textures of roots, earth, leaves as well as the soft windswept pastures. We feel for Vincent when a schoolteacher (Anne Consigny) openly mocks his work in front of her kids, and after a violent outburst he is sent away from the town, admitting his fear of going mad – but it could be that he just hates people and prefers solitude, which is understandable amongst these cackling idiots.

With Gauguin he enjoys a companionable time until success takes him to Paris whereupon van Gogh starts to unravel emotionally with the famous ear incident. A doctor (Vladimir Consigny) suggests some therapy, that merely confines the artist to a straitjacket. Ironically this comes at the same time as an influential Paris art critic praises his work as uniquely sensual. Meanwhile a priest (Mads Mikkelsen in thoughtful mode) damns his vision and calls his work ugly. 

This sensuous re-imagining of the artist’s final days belongs to Dafoe whose craggy features and piercing blue eyes convey a lost and melancholy soul whose  sensitivity and artistic genius have now made him a household name . MT

NOW ON NETFLIX. TRAILER courtesy of Curzon Cinemas | VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2018 Winner Best Actor: Willem Dafoe

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