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In late spring, 1890, Vincent moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, under the care of Dr. Gachet, living in a humble inn. Fewer than 70 days later, Vincent dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We see Vincent at work, painting landscapes and portraits. His brother Theo, wife Johanna, and their baby visit Auvers. Vincent is playful and charming, engaging the attentions of Gachet’s daughter Marguerite (who’s half Vincent’s age), a young maid at the inn, Cathy a Parisian prostitute, and Johanna. Shortly before his death, Vincent visits Paris, quarrels with Theo, disparages his own art and accomplishments, dances at a brothel, and is warm then cold toward Marguerite.
For more about Van Gogh and the Van Gogh Blu-ray release, see Van Gogh Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Maurice Pialat
Starring: Jacques Dutronc, Alexandra London, Bernard Le Coq
» See full cast & crew
Van Gogh Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 8, 2013
Nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival and winner of Cesar Award for Best Actor, Maurice Pialat's "Van Gogh" (1991) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Gaumont. The supplemental features on this release include the film's original theatrical trailer; exclusive new video interview with actor Bernard Le Coq; exclusive new video interview with cinematographer Emmanuel Machuel; archival interviews with Jacques Dutronc and Maurice Pialat; deleted scenes; and more. In French, with optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, 1890. Disillusioned and feeling weak, Vincent Van Gogh (Jacques Dutronc, My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days) spends most of his time alone. Occasionally, his brother Theo (Bernard Le Coq, Hidden) visits him and they talk about his work. Deep inside Theo believes that Vincent has wasted his talent - instead of trying to earn the admiration of the critics with his unique style, his brother could have imitated Renoir and sold many of his paintings to wealthy collectors across Europe. But Vincent cannot stand the critics and their puppets, the collectors, because he is convinced that they are savages who are incapable of understanding, let alone appreciating, his work.
Theo's wife, Jo (Corinne Bourdon, Under the Sun of Satan), is concerned about Vincent's health. She often urges her husband to continue supporting Vincent even though they have also started struggling. From all of the people Vincent lets into his private world, Jo is the only one who has realized that he is on the verge of giving up. She is afraid that once he loses his passion for painting, he would also lose his desire to live.
When the young, charming and pure Marguerite Gachet (Alexandra London, Les destinées) approaches Vincent, his life temporarily brightens up. At first she annoys him with her naive questions, but then slowly earns his admiration and love. Even though she is a lot younger than him, the two often make love. Marguerite also models for Vincent until he begins struggling with depression.
Vincent's finals days are seen through the eyes of a number of people who interpret his behavior differently. For example, when he admits to Theo that he is considering suicide, his brother concludes that once again he isn't honest with himself. In one of the film's most dramatic sequences, Vincent and Theo also clash with incredible intensity, questioning their beliefs and the integrity of their art.
The only person who seems to understand Vincent is Marguerite. She loves him as he is, unpredictable, at times rude, frustratingly quiet, willing to give everything he has to those he loves but afraid to receive from those who love him. At one point she discovers him in a brothel but chooses not to confront him because she realizes that he is desperately trying to reignite his passion for life. They dance and laugh, and Vincent even pushes Marguerite in the hands of another woman, but after they leave the brothel it is clear that on the inside he is already dead.
Van Gogh, arguably Maurice Pialat's masterpiece, does not chronicle the life of the great Dutch painter; rather, it offers a glimpse of his final days, a period that has been interpreted differently by many who have studied his life and legacy.
In these final days, Van Gogh's mental condition isn't the focus of attention either. What the film follows closely is the effect his uneven deterioration has on his art – first the evolution and maturation of his style, and in particular the preference for exceptionally bold colors that emerges in Auvers-sur-Oise, and then his unique relationship with nature. Unsurprisingly, during substantial portions of the film Pialat's camera simply observes Van Gogh while he is alone with his thoughts.
Dutronc is excellent as the brittle painter. I specifically would like to mention the fact that none of Van Gogh's well documented struggles to maintain some balance in his life are overdramatized. The viewer can easily feel his frustration and later on pain, but the demons that torment his soul remain hidden. This gives the film that unique sense of intimacy as well as a degree of documentary authenticity that make so many of Pialat's films special.
Van Gogh Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Maurice Pialat's Van Gogh arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Gaumont.
If i had to use one word to describe Van Gogh, arguably Maurice Pialat's masterpiece, it would be revelation. Though not flawless, the high-definition transfer has the type of organic qualities Gaumont's last batch of classic titles did not. The overwhelming majority of the close-ups, for instance, convey very pleasing depth (see screencaptures #3 and 5), while the larger panoramic shots boast good and occasionally even excellent fluidity. Perhaps the most substantial upgrade, however, is in the area of color reproduction. Where on the old R2 DVD Artificial Eye produced quite some time ago colors often appeared anemic and flat, now there is a good range of warm and natural colors; the yellows and browns in particular look gorgeous. Also, contrast levels are toned down, supporting the film's unique period look, but one never gets the impression that the film lacks fluidity because the high-definition transfer is problematic. Furthermore, there are no traces of problematic degraining corrections (though some careful adjustments have been performed). On the other hand, during some of the darker sequences some light artifacts occasionally sneak in (see screencapture #10) but never become distracting. There are no large debris, cuts, or damage marks. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. All in all, Gaumont's presentation of Van Gogh is on par with the competent presentations we had come to expect from the distributors after they began releasing on Blu-ray a couple of years ago. I am definitely pleased. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Van Gogh Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. For the record, Gaumont have provided optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless audio also represents a major step up in quality. The sound is crisp, very clear, and with an all-around excellent depth. The dialog is exceptionally easy to follow, while random nature noises that were more or less lost on the DVD release are very easy to hear. The English translation is excellent.
Van Gogh Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Van Gogh Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I am aware that Maurice Pialat's Van Gogh isn't universally liked, but I believe that it is the French director's masterpiece. It is a deeply moving film that does not aim to chronicle the life of the legendary Dutch artist, rather it allows one to see him as an ordinary man whose art was essentially a mirror image of his condition. Gaumont's Blu-ray presentation of Van Gogh is very good. In fact, I would argue that this is the most impressive Blu-ray release the French distributors have produced to date. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Van Gogh Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Three Maurice Pialat Films Coming Up - October 19, 2012
French distributors Gaumont have revealed that they are preparing for Blu-ray release three films by acclaimed director Maurice Pialat: Loulou (1980), A nos amours a.k.a To Our Loves (1983), and Van Gogh (1991). All three films are set to be released on January ...
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