Jacques Dutronc, Gerard Sety, Alexandra London, Bernard Le Coq
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Eureka Entertainment (Masters of Cinema)
Restoration of film, 1080p on Blu-ray; English Subtitles; 1965 "Van Gogh" documentary also shot by Pialat; 10-minute interview with Pialat from 1991; 50-minute interview with Pialat from 1992; Video Interviews w/Jacques Dutronc and Bernard LeCoq plus the DoP and editor; Deleted Scenes; Original Trailer; 56-page booklet
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Originally released by Sony Classics in the U.S., this 1992 classic from writer/director Maurice Pialat has been given a full-on remastering from U.K.'s Eureka Entertainment and is being released as part of the distributor's Masters of Cinema series. Thought by many to be one of the crowning achievements of Pialat's career in the latter half of the 20th century, Van Gogh tells the story of the last 60 days of the artist's life in a way that stresses primarily his relationships and what was going on inside him.
While I'm not quite ready to call Van Gogh the classic that it's being put out there to be, it is unquestionably a good film made much better by the performances of singer/songwriter Jacques Dutronc in the lead role and an equally convincing performance by Alexandra London as Van Gogh's model/lover Margerite Gachet. The two performances resonate even when the film itself seems a tad off pace, a consistent issue for the film yet one that is never so serious that it actually trashes the film. What is most refreshing about Pialat's portrayal of Van Gogh is that this is the rare film that truly humanizes the artist rather than the typical "artsy" portrayal of a temperamental artist or a man whose anxieties got the best of him. There's a phrase "breath of fresh air" that seems to apply here as Pialat's script allows Van Gogh to live and breathe rather than to simply be an under-appreciated artist.
Bernard Le Coq shines as Van Gogh's brother Theo, though a side story involving Theo's spouse is unnecessary and dilutes the impact of the relationship between Vincent and Theo (Remember that film?).
At times as raw as the artist himself, Van Gogh is a flawed yet beautiful film that still makes a fine addition to the Masters of Cinema because it is an example of the boldness and the visual mastery of Maurice Pialat. While one could easily wish that the 157-minute film had been structured just a tad differently the finished product still creates an image of Van Gogh never really seen before. Fans of the artist and fans of Pialat will rejoice in this digitally remastered offering from Eureka Entertainment and the top-notch packaging that surrounds it.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic