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Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh (1988)

John Hurt , Marika Rivera , Paul Cox , Gerrit Messiaen  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh + Lust For Life + IMAX: Van Gogh: A Brush with Genius
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Product Details

  • Actors: John Hurt, Marika Rivera, Gabriella Trsek
  • Directors: Paul Cox, Gerrit Messiaen, Robert Visser
  • Writers: Paul Cox, Gerrit Messiaen, Robert Visser
  • Producers: Gerrit Messiaen, Robert Visser, Roland Schulte, Tony Llewellyn-Jones
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: August 30, 2005
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009U6XD4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,187 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Bonus featurette: A Journey with Paul Cox
  • Vincent Van Gogh biography
  • Filmmaker biography

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The most profound exploration of an artist's soul ever to be put on film (Village Voice), VINCENT: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF VINCENT VAN GOGH is a captivating study of a brilliant artist. One of the Top 10 documentaries the year it was released, Paul Cox's portrait of Vincent Van Gogh is a journey through the life of a tortured genius who became one of the greatest artists of all time. The story is told through letters written to his brother Theo from 1872 until 1890, eloquently read by actor John Hurt.

The best film about Vincent Van Gogh is not one of the many biopics of the painter, but this stirring, ardent documentary. Forgoing a conventional biography's and-then-he-cut-his-ear-off approach, the gifted Dutch-Australian director Paul Cox opts for pure evocation: he trails his camera through the places where Van Gogh walked, as though trying to dream his way into the artist's mindset. Meanwhile, the beautiful voice of John Hurt reads from Vincent's amazingly searching letters to his brother, Theo. (Hurt's voice probably deserved an Oscar for this vocal-cord performance alone.) Van Gogh's journey as struggling artist and tormented man of soul is thus made strangely direct--it will not only send you to see Vincent's paintings but to locate a copy of his collected letters as well. Many film directors have grappled with this subject: Vincente Minnelli with Lust for Life, Robert Altman with Vincent & Theo, Maurice Pialat with Van Gogh. But the perpetually underappreciated Cox (Innocence) has trumped them with simplicity and sheer intensity of feeling. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In his own words... November 10, 2005
"I will not live without love." ~Vincent van Gogh

The story of Vincent van Gogh's life seems best told in his own words, complete with casual sketches, detailed drawings and famous paintings. In the spirit of "Crows" in Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (where we see the Langlois Bridge and Crows in the Wheatfields brought to life), we are entertained by visions of painting after painting. It is fun to watch Akira Kurosawa's Dreams after viewing this movie because then you recognize the paintings that were brought to life in a dream of pure visual delight.

The Café Terrace, Yellow House, Fishing Boats, Bedroom at Arles, Starry Night and Sunflowers are some of the paintings featured, but there is an entire world of Vincent van Gogh's art that is introduced with analytical letters written to his brother. In these letters he tells his brother of the art he is working on and his motivating influences all while we the viewer are entertained with the art, scenes from nature and the acting out of various scenes (Night Café with Pool Table) that eventually became paintings. There are fields of olive trees from Olive Trees 1889 and Vincent's letter speaks of the difficulty of capturing the colors in the soil and tree bark.

When you hear the story of Vincent van Gogh's life in his own words, suddenly he becomes so much more than a famous artist. His life is filled with tragedy and hardship, but he is also able to find stunning beauty through his love of philosophy and his view of the world seems to remain relatively positive right up until his death. He not only travels, he also lives with Gauguin. The art shown after living with Gauguin shows how being able to relate to someone like himself increased his creativity.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Van Gogh September 27, 2005
I can only imagine how pleased Van Gogh would be at seeing his work articulated through Paul Cox's lens. Interspersed with countless images of Van Gogh's original work, are cinematic images of the landscapes, the still-lifes, the town, and the people that Van Gogh knew so well. Cox unassumingly uses real people and costumes in an almost dream-like fashion; they exist along the edges of the film, in a sort of blur; as if we were living directly in Van Gogh's dreams and memories. What's most astounding though, is that I never knew what an incredibly gifted writer Van Gogh was. The entire film is narration of Van Gogh's words, in letters written to his brother. His passion, idealism, and frustration are articulated in ways that are so tangible ... it makes all other works about frustrated idealists seem downright silly. It took me a while to warm up to John Hurt's narration because I kept envisioning him instead of Van Gogh, but after a little while I got lost in the words just and concentrated on the feeling that Hurt was evoking. By the end I was in tears. It's the best film about an artist that I've ever seen. - - - Also, don't forget to check out the fantastic 55 minute documentary on the film's director, Paul Cox; a soul mate of Van Gogh's to be sure.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful

Here's what I know about artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853 to 1890): (1) He only sold one painting in his lifetime (ironic since one of his paintings in modern times sold for 40 million dollars) (2) he sliced off part of his ear in a fit of madness.

This documentary reveals that there was much, much more to this man. I say documentary but this is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill documentary that was written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Paul Cox.

Beware! This is not a biography of Van Gogh but a look into his psyche during the last eighteen years of his life.

This documentary consists of British actor John Hurt reading from selected letters Van Gough wrote mostly to his younger brother (named Theodore or "Theo"). These letters date from 1872 to 1890. Cox has thus found an effective and unique way to tell Van Gogh's story even though it's somewhat repetitive to listen to Hurt's voice for an hour and a half. (I must admit though, Hurt's voice is interesting and distinctive.)

I learned what an incredibly gifted writer Van Gogh was. These letters reveal his passion, idealism, and frustration. Here is a sentence from one of his letters that I feel accurately and succinctly sums up his life:

"It is basically true that a painter is a man who is too absorbed in what his eyes see and is not sufficiently master of the rest of his life."

On screen, we see a collection of imagery (sometimes random) that relates (sometimes vaguely) to the themes in the letters, interspersed with a few drawings and paintings of Van Gogh's famous works. Occasionally music accompanies the images, some of it classical.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece sadly in need of a better transfer. April 8, 2009
I saw this film in the theatre in the late 1980's and have shown this film to my students for many years. This is quite simply the best film on an artist ever made. There is nothing condescending or easy in this movie. The film is approached with the same serious spirit that Van Gogh possessed. We hear Vincent's alternatingly inspirational and heartbreaking words read with deep understanding by John Hurt. Hurt does not think about these words, he inhabits them. I cannot concieve of a better choice for the narration of these letters.

The cinematography is intense, personal, agitated, calm, and experimental. It is perfectly suited to the material. This is not a polished, Ken Burns-style documentary. The approach is subjective and risky...but it works. This is smart, touching, belly food.

So why only 4 stars? Now we get to my motivation for writing in the first place. This DVD is an abysmal transfer of the original film. The colors are washed out and bland, the contrast is low. Someone should be arrested for allowing this to happen. Paul Cox, anyone, please "re-master" this film with an original print. Van Gogh's paintings do not come through in this DVD. Very sorry indeed. A major flaw.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a wonderful rendering of someone whose life was fraut with...
This is a wonderful rendering of someone whose life was fraut with sadness and anxiety. A testimony to the human spirit and its perseverance in sharing its vision.
Published 1 month ago by John H. Heilman
3.0 out of 5 stars Wasn't quite what I expected.
It was interesting enough and gave information on his work as they showed the paintings, but wasn't as good as I hoped for. Read more
Published 8 months ago by D. Tholen
5.0 out of 5 stars Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh is a fascinating artist both in his life and his art. I saw this years ago in Newport Beach with my wife and we were quite taken with the presentation. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Robert Butterfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Paul cox,s finest
I am a big fan of the work of Paul Cox?
Vincent special. The idea of making a film just based on letters is very special and works very well in this film. Read more
Published 12 months ago by dagmar limp
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected - The book was great - the movie bad
This movie was a big disappointment - It could have taken only ten minutes to show the art - the rest was just a poorly filmed train or scene going by. Read more
Published 13 months ago by jeanette
5.0 out of 5 stars Vincent
This documentary is not easy to follow or watch in a single sitting. It requires several viewings to appreciate. Read more
Published on June 20, 2012 by Hexagonite
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beautiful words of Van Gogh
This film is composed of Vincents letters, mostly to his brother Theo. If you ever wanted to know about Van Gogh's personal life, this is the film to watch. Read more
Published on February 4, 2012 by Bvssey
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best film about an artist...
...or words to that effect. That's what Roger Ebert said, at least. This is a very interesting and enjoyable foray into the beautiful writing of Vincent van Gogh. Read more
Published on October 31, 2011 by Ron L. Caldwell
1.0 out of 5 stars The life and Death of Vincent Gogh
I will not tell people to buy that DVD of the life and death of vincent Van Gogh, very dispointed with that DVD, it dosn't give much information about his death, so don't buy this... Read more
Published on February 22, 2011 by sam chui
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the man and the paintings brilliantly
I love the sensitivity with which this film was made. All the words are Vincent's own, and the selection of passages is brilliant. Read more
Published on January 31, 2011 by E. Karasik
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