Critics of any of the arts should periodically remind themselves of the Van Gogh Conundrum. Vincent Van Gogh changed modern art, but during his brief lifetime, he only sold one painting. The prestigious critics of the day didn’t recognize him, but his younger brother believed in him. Vincent’s sad saga might provide the foundation for the pipe dream of many artists, but he has also inspired more art like this animated feature, “Loving Vincent.”
This manner of animation combines rotoscoping with the textures and scenes from Van Gogh’s works of art. The paintings seem to throb with life, even when reduced to the shades of gray in the flashbacks.
The story begins a year after Van Gogh died. His friend, the Postman Roulin (Douglas Booth) charges his eldest son, Armand (Douglas Booth), with a letter written by Vincent and meant for Theo. Armand attempts to find Theo, but alas, Theo had already died. Armand ponders what to do and on this journey meets many of the people whose portraits Vincent painted and becomes involved in the mystery of his death.
Fans of BBC and PBS Masterpiece will be delighted because Eleanor Tomlinson (Demelza Poldark) has a key role and Aidan Turner does show up in a smaller role.
Many people loved Vincent, but love and genius are complicated matters that are hard to understand. Even if you’re not intrigued by the circumstances that this Jacek Dehnel, Dorota Kobila and Hugh Welchman’s script, the visual effects make this worth seeing for any artist or fan of animation. Looking at the portraits he painted, the animators might have gone a bit heavy on the rouge for the women’s cheeks, but otherwise, this is a uniquely beautiful visual study of an artist.
“Loving Vincent” won the Audience Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the Best Animation Film at the Shanghai International Film Festival. “Loving Vincent” opens at the Laemmle Royal on 29 Sept.; and 6 Oct. at the Playhouse 7 and Town Center 5.