Is Loving Vincent Yet Another Lousy Filmic Portrayal Of A Dead Artist?




I’m apprehensive of the announcement by Oscar winning Breakthru Animation studios of “the world’s first feature-length painted animation,” ‘Loving Vincent’. Over 100 artists trained to mimic the painterly style of Van Gogh will create one painting per frame, creating possibly the most long winded animation feature ever. It is set around 120 of his paintings, and I’m expecting each recognisable piece to morph into and then out of view again as a narrative is shoehorned around them. Certainly it’s admirable that traditional hand painted animation is evidently going strong, and Van Gogh’s style will make it visually stunning.

What exactly is the purpose of this exercise? Is training 100 artists to mimic another for the sake of producing one art house film not excessive? The plot is taken from his various letters throughout his life, and although the plan is amusing on paper I maintain that the finished product when combined with paintings scattered at the relevant moments will present a skewed view of the artist’s complex mind. I think this method teaches an audience to admire a pastiche of Van Gogh’s style as opposed to properly taking each painting as it should be: a stand alone work with way more significance than a signpost in a wider narrative. The same happened in Leigh’s Mr Turner of 2014: the arrival of each major painting on screen sounded an enormous klaxon, like its makers were ticking off a checklist. Incidentally, while we’re on Mr Turner, Timothy Spall’s characterisation does Turner no justice. Certainly the historical era was evoked beautifully, but his portrayal plonks an anomalous, unsophisticated oaf amongst proceedings, again like a loud honking klaxon. Turner I believe was way more canny than that cartoon.

I’m generally against cinema depictions of artists simply because one fictional portrayal rarely does justice to the works themselves. An artist is known primarily by his produce. It doesn’t help that they are in entirely different mediums, and there is a greater harmony in musical biographies for instance where the actual piece of music for example may be experienced. The mystery surrounding artists is a part of why their marks, left in the form of extant works, are so compelling. I’m less interested in the character than about the pieces of canvas, for that is where the interest really lies. Watching Kirk Douglas wearing comedy ginger wig and painting in a studio lot-grade wind machine I think put me off filmic artist biographies for life.

This is where you should come in and tell me of great films proving me wrong.

© artbytch@artlyst.com

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