We just spent a couple hours watching the latest movie about the Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. I can’t recommend it exactly. It was slow, painterly, anguished. It depicts the famous painter’s last year or so. Years ago I saw the Kirk Douglas treatment Lust for Life but I skipped the movie Vincent and Theo about the painter and his brother Theo which never quite made it to the top of my must-watch list despite generous reviews.
The painting above was one of my Mother’s favorite paintings. She put a magazine reproduction of it on our walls.
A few years ago I read that a recent Van Gogh biography theorized that instead of dying by suicide Van Gogh was shot by a couple of stupid kids. That is how the makers of this movie kill him off.
But that’s sort of besides the point. This movie attempts to portray the greatly underappreciated Van Gogh, the real Van Gogh, whose paintings would a hundred years on sell for millions. I think Willem DeFoe’s portrayal in At Eternity’s Gate is believable and unsentimental. The famous ear episode was probably spot on.
On the other hand, Vincent the man comes across as a bit of a naif and I am not certain that was accurate. I read a snippet of a letter he wrote extolling his joy at sampling the wares at a brothel. The impression that this carnal anecdote offers runs counter to one of my favorite songs, Starry Starry Night by Don McLean. Like Van Gogh’s paintings the real story, no matter what it was, does not diminish my appreciation of McLean’s song.
But art is subjective.
When I was visiting my Mother during her dementia and singing to her I once sang the whole of McLean’s song to her because it was about one of her favorite artists. Afterwards, I asked her if she liked the song. She didn’t.