Movie Review: Loving Vincent

A cold kept me from seeing a one time showing of the independent film Loving Vincent Tuesday evening in the Joplin area. I was very disappointed, as I have long appreciated this amazing and often misunderstood artist. I checked to see what nearby cities might be showing this unique movie. Springfield, Missouri, a little more than an hour away, had a 3:30 showing today, at a arthouse theater in the historic downtown area. Feeling much better, and armed with natural elderberry and zinc cough drops, I had the privilege of watching this beautiful film this afternoon, in a very cool setting. I am grateful to Greg for encouraging me to go and for accompanying me on this adventure.

Loving Vincent, while not a live action movie, used actors to portray the characters and supply the voices. The filmed scenes provided the artists who created the movie with foundational material. Actors include Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, and Cezary Lucaszewicz. This biographical animation was written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. It carries a PG-13 rating, for mature themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 34 minutes.

What makes Loving Vincent so unique is that it is the first story depicted entirely in oil painting animation. Over a six year span, more than 100 artists created the paintings, in Van Gogh’s artistic style, that became the 65,000 frames of the movie. Van Gogh’s landscapes and buildings come to life, and his portraits become the characters who are telling Vincent’s story.

A year after the death of Vincent Van Gogh (Gulaczyk), a young man named Armand (Booth) travels to the artist’s last hometown, at the request of his father (O’Dowd), who is a postman. He carries a letter that Vincent wrote to his now deceased brother, Theo (Lucaszewicz), in hopes of delivering it to a close friend of Vincent’s, Dr. Gachet (Flynn).

The doctor is away, allowing Armand time to explore Auvers-sur-Oise, and talk to the people who knew Vincent. He meets Adeline (Tomlinson), the honest barmaid who became Vincent’s friend, and the not so honest Louise (McCrory), housekeeper for Dr. Gachet. The Boatman (Turner) shares stories about Vincent and strong drink, while the doctor’s daughter Marguerite (Ronan) prefers to keep her stories to herself.

As Armand listens to the villagers’ tales, his curiosity turns to a realization that Vincent was more than a crazy or sick man. He recognizes the artist’s genius and his complexities. By the time he meets Dr. Gachet, Armand questions whether Vincent’s death was a suicide, or an accident, or even murder.

What an extraordinary film about a creative and enigmatic man. Visually stunning, Loving Vincent is a work of art, literally, and also a work of the heart. It was thrilling to see familiar Van Gogh paintings come to life through animation.

As the story unfolded, the present was depicted in color while Vincent’s backstory was presented in black and white images. I learned about Vincent’s unhappy childhood. And I felt his loneliness as an adult as he struggled first to belong somewhere and second to be appreciated for his art.

A prolific artist, Vincent created more than 800 painting in eight years. Although he gave away many paintings, and sent most of his completed pieces to his brother, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. He died unrecognized as an artist, not knowing the value of work.

And that has always broken my heart. I love the colors and energy in Vincent’s paintings. His words inspire me. For he was not only a prolific painter, he wrote hundreds of letters to Theo, detailing his life and his thoughts and his torments.

I did not realize, until I saw this movie, that there were suspicions around Vincent’s death. There is no proving any of them, then or now. But is comforts me, thinking that perhaps this talented, earthy and sometimes unsettled man didn’t take his own life.

The Moxie Cinema, in downtown Springfield, was the perfect venue for this film. Known as an arthouse theater, The Moxie has two intimate theater rooms, occupancy 88 people each, that feel more like home theater rooms. The seats are ultra comfortable, and the ticket prices and concessions are very reasonably priced. They offer healthy snack options, such as bottled water and almonds, or you can even sip on a glass of wine during the movie.

The Moxie showcases independent, artsy, classical and documentary films. I am thrilled to discover them and appreciate what they have to offer. I am grateful as well that locally, Route 66 Theater in Webb City is bringing in more independent films. Loving Vincent played there Tuesday evening. I look forward to seeing what they present next.

Greg and I arrived an hour early. We were joined later by more movie goers, of all ages.

Loving Vincent…worth the drive and the time invested. Because I do love this artist, and his authentic heart and work. I had tears in my eyes as the film concluded, with one of my favorite Vincent quotes:

“I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, ‘he feels deeply’, ‘he feels tenderly’.

You have, Vincent. I say, you did feel deeply and tenderly and you saw the world in fresh ways. I hope, oh I hope, that you know how much you have touched people with your art and your life. And you fit in, you belong and have a place, in the hearts of so many who appreciate your contributions to the world.

We are…I am…loving Vincent.

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