Co-Writers & Co-Directors: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman
An impressive style of animation where over 100 artists hand painted each frame of film in the style of Vincent van Gogh, evoking, and in some cases duplicating, scenes that van Gogh created. It’s like watching the paintings themselves come alive and the places and people van Gogh painted reveal themselves more fully.
Alas, were the mystery story surrounding van Gogh’s death as interesting as the visuals. The story is only mildly involving with the lead protagonist Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), the son of the postman who delivered van Gogh’s mail and became friendly with him, in basically a coming of age story for someone we don’t end up caring much about. In the end, the plot seems a contrivance to link the series of van Gogh’s paintings together around his stay in the small French village where he created so many of his iconic paintings and where he died.
A fine cast does its best to breathe life into the array of characters, but are hampered by a byproduct of the frame painting. It basically obscures the subtlety of facial expression, and we lose a great deal of the emotional power these actors are used to being able to convey. This results in an overall emotionally flat film, with the actors at times seemingly overacting in voice to compensate for the facial restriction. Perhaps if the film did not have to sustain something as emotional as a murder mystery it could have overcome this limitation. For the visuals alone this is a solid Should See.
- A.O. Scott in NY Times echos my feelings. “Loving Vincent” addresses its subject, the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, with two what-ifs — one marvelous and fantastical, the other empirical and pedestrian. What if his paintings, with their wild colors and vibrant brush strokes, had been able to move? And what if the bullet that killed him had been fired by someone else?”
- Sheri Linden in the LA Times gave it higher marks, but touched on the same issues. “The life-changing journey unfolds, in somewhat stilted fashion, as a series of conversations between Armand and people who knew Van Gogh during his final weeks. Their conflicting accounts are often overly psychological attempts to explain him. Beyond explanation is the art itself. Animating Van Gogh’s bold impasto, already kinetic on the canvas, could have been merely superfluous. As moving pictures, though, the brushstrokes have an unexpected pull in this uneven but deeply felt homage.”