Loving Vincent ★★★★½

By way of geography, rather than choice, I attended a High School whose claim to fame was their vocational arts program ( and, years after I graduated, famous for school shootings ). I was in the academic tract, but, taking art as an academic course availed me of all the gifted teachers and specialties all rolled into one alternating in semesters. Including Art History. While I loved line drawing, sculpting, painting, and er, life drawing … it was Art History that I dreaded. That is, until we started studying Impressionism and Expressionism. That’s where I fell in love with painters, but in particular, Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh's works just spoke to me on the same level that Malick films speak to me today. There is something that is desperate, sad, and yet hopeful that is conveyed in those wild colours and impassioned strokes. My favourite painting back then, and still until this day is his last, Wheatfield with Crows, that hangs above my bed. There is something so intriguing and mysterious about which path the artist was going to take, and his indecision about it.

Not hearing a lot about the film, aside from a good friend neighbour, and well regarded painter herself, that it was brilliant, I thought this Oscar best Animated Feature nominee would probably be style more than substance, and rely on the fact that 16,000 paintings were created for it.

No, that wasn’t the case.

Loving Vincent is a magnificent telling of the weeks and months following his death accented with beautiful and poignant use of his style and paintings seamlessly incorporated into the story. There is nothing ‘showoffy’ about it. There is a glance here and there of one of his paintings used as a starting frame, the reference for a scene, or just something that shows up in a pan. My beloved Wheatfield with Crows has a special place in the film though, as the site of the painting is well believed where Vincent shot himself … the painting itself displaying a divergent course, which is what drew me to Van Gogh so many years ago.

Years ago our company used to exhibit at a trade show in Amsterdam. We were there probably a dozen times, and used to rent a houseboat instead of a hotel. We got to know the neighbourhood really well. One of my most beloved memories of that time was seeing Wheatfield with Crows in the flesh at the Van Gogh Rijksmuseum. I must have stared at it for half an hour or more.

I hope the Academy recognizes this originality and subject, but alas I'm pretty sure it will go to the latest Pixar / Disney project ... as it always does.

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