Combustible Celluloid
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With: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, Chris O'Dowd, John Sessions, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner
Written by: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Directed by: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violence, sexual material and smoking
Running Time: 94
Date: 10/06/2017

Loving Vincent (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Never Let Van Gogh

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Reportedly the first fully-painted animated film in history, this seven-years-in-the-making effort is often breathtakingly beautiful, in spite of its pulpy story and its cross-section of techniques.

In Loving Vincent, the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh has recently died, and the postmaster (Chris O'Dowd) has an undelivered letter for him. He sends his son, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) to find Van Gogh's brother Theo, but Armand discovers that he, too, has passed away.

The young man continues his travels, to Van Gogh's last known haunts in France, to discover who is most deserving of receiving the letter. He interviews many of the people who knew, or spoke with Van Gogh, and finds many curiously conflicting stories. Some say that Van Gogh may have had a young lover, which complicates matters. And some say that, rather than having committed suicide as was the general perception, he may have been murdered.

Loving Vincent is based on actual people that sat for Van Gogh's paintings, complete with their clothing and poses, and when the movie re-creates an actual portrait or a landscape, it is awe-inspiring. Yet the movie becomes more troublesome when it includes dialogue sequences between characters; the animation is done with rotoscoping, similar to that of Richard Linklater's Waking Life, and it's far less appealing; it doesn't quite match. Not to mention that these are, in essence, merely rudimentary scenes of two heads talking.

As for the story, it works as a pulp mystery, somewhat based on real events. And, truth be told, if one is going to make a movie about Vincent Van Gogh, why not make it in beautiful paintings? But the story also feels a little too slight for the incredible artistry that has gone into the filmmaking. Couldn't something more have been at stake?

Nonetheless, while all of the elements may not click exactly into place, Loving Vincent is still a very entertaining and quite gorgeous movie, which may inspire viewers to look further into Van Gogh's real-life output.

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