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BMZ Review: Van Gogh: Brush With Genius
By Ann Coates


Van Gogh: Brush With Genius
Written by: Ann Coates
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: March 23, 2009


Category: Reviews

Literally an art film, Van Gogh: Brush With Genius is an intimate look into the artist's paintings told through a beyond-the-grave narration from "Van Gogh."  Tracking his short artistic career, the film travels through the Netherlands and France revealing the artist's source material for many of his works.  The life of Van Gogh as described within the film tends towards the sugar-coated -- though it does on occasion have its witty moments -- the drama of his paintings comes through despite the cheer found in the narration.

The core of the film is the intense focus on Van Gogh's paintings.  The camera comes incredibly close to his works revealing hard, thick brushstrokes, where at times, the paint still appears wet and new.  The film refuses to critique his paintings or their relevance in art history, only uncovering the source material from which Van Gogh drew upon.  It is a challenging approach allowing the audience to fashion their own understanding, or rather feelings, on his paintings simply as they are.  But after 40 minutes of intense visual scrutiny of his work, it would have been nice to have at least a bit of scholarly understanding of Van Gogh's art.

The film does reveal Van Gogh as a workaholic painting non-stop for 9 years, culminating in over 900 paintings in his short artistic career.  Compelled to paint, the film exhibits his obsession with color, particularly with the "high yellow note" which so frequently appears in his art.  Despite the intensity with which he worked, the overall feel of the film lacks this sense of torment and passion with which he painted.

An atypical, strange Giant Screen film, Van Gogh nevertheless is a bold step out of traditional Giant Screen filmmaking.  Like Van Gogh's paintings where high horizon lines allow the viewer to feel surrounded by the painting, the film Van Gogh dives into the work of the artist in exhaustive and detailed intimacy.

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