Several agonizing years in the making, “Loving Vincent” has finally arrived with a vivid splash of color in theaters to hold cinephiles in thrall with its arresting, mesmerizing imagery.
I pity the reader who deems that statement hyperbolic, for it means you haven’t yet seen this movie, a work like no other in film history.
Again, hyperbole, but justifiable hyperbole, which if you think about it is just accurate, due praise for what the filmmakers set out to do: create a narrative film consisting of the animation of several thousand oil paintings. No Joke.
“Loving Vincent,” a Polish-U.K. co-production, tells the story of the weeks leading up to the death of Vincent Van Gogh, the flamboyantly tortured Dutch artist, in the Paris-adjacent town of Auvers-sur-Oise. He spent his nights there in a small room on the second floor of the Auberge Ravoux inn, which is now an historical landmark and museum; it was in that room where he died of a bullet wound to the torso, July 29, 1890.
Viewers who go into the movie theater uninformed of the plot’s gist will be surprised that, rather than some idyllic meditation on the final days of one of the father’s of modern art, the movie, follows the structure of classic film noir who-done-its like the “Big Sleep” or “Chinatown.” The central mystery is exactly how Van Gogh was shot, conventional wisdom holds the act was self-inflicted, but the amateur gumshoe who functions as the movie’s protagonist comes to doubt this assumption.