Lust for Life (1956)
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I watched Lust for Life in the wake of Kirk Douglas' departure from these realms, a Van Gogh biopic to which he evidently gave his all with a vigorous performance as the tortured painter, with a script based on letters between him and his brother (it's one real misstep is having the brother read the letters in voice-over, which just seems confusing). Lust for Life doesn't shy away from speaking the language of the arts, and Vincent has many philosophical discussions with other people in the art world about aesthetics and techniques, which I found particularly interesting. The film is also shot in the places where he painted, juxtaposed with the actual works, its sense of place adding lush spectacle to a story that's essentially a downer. But mostly, it paints (ha!) the picture of a difficult man who has since become the poster boy for mental illness, but without leaning into the Van Gogh myth. That is to say, he isn't some isolated, misunderstood genius, just one who, through a combination of starting late, dying young, and being a bit of a terror in his personal life, never achieved mainstream success in his lifetime, but an artist who brought the same passion to his art he did to everything he got involved with (including his stint as clergyman). We have this image of Van Gogh in our minds, and the film defies the expectations it creates.
Van Gogh is my favorite painter!! Great movie!!
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #90 in Spike Lee's Essential List of Films for Filmmakers
This movie ranks #511 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #526 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?