Lust for Life [VHS]
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Lust for Life is appropriately titled, for mere passion seems inadequate when describing this superb fictionalized biography (based on Irving Stone's popular novel) of Vincent Van Gogh. In a deservedly Oscar®- nominated performance, Kirk Douglas is physically and emotionally perfect as the tormented Dutch painter, whose life is chronicled from his ill-fated stint as a preacher to Belgian miners in 1878, to his Impressionist-inspired artistic awakening and psychological descent to suicide in 1890. Having triumphed with 1952's The Bad and the Beautiful, Douglas, producer John Houseman, and director Vincente Minnelli brought vigor and vitality to this blessed project, which centers on Van Gogh's stormy friendship with fellow artist Gaugin (Oscar-winner Anthony Quinn). Minnelli used an outmoded color film process and innovative camera techniques to vividly recreate Van Gogh's paintings, and he filmed on the actual Dutch and French locations where Van Gogh's mastery flourished. The artist's lust for life also fed his madness, and this film deeply understands the fine line in between. --Jeff Shannon
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A must see movie for fans of impressionism.
Vibrant orange sunflowers. Rippling yellow grain. Trees bursting with white bloom. “The pictures come to me as in a dream,” Vincent van Gogh said. A dream that too often turned to life-shattering nightmare. Winner of the Golden Globe® and the New York Film Critics Best Actor Awards, Kirk Douglas gives a fierce portrayal as the artist torn between the joyous inspiration of his genius and the dark desperation of his tormented mind. The obsessed Vincent van Gogh painted the way other men breathe, driving away family and friends, including artist Paul Gauguin [Anthony Quinn, 1956 Best Supporting Actor Academy Award® winner]. Directed by Vincente Minnelli and saturated with the hues of Vincent van Gogh’s sea, field and sky. ‘Lust for Life’ captures the ecstasy of art and the agony of one man’s life.
FILM FACTS: Academy Awards® Won: Anthony Quinn for Actor in a Supporting Role. Nominations: Kirk Douglas for Best Actor. Nominations: Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters and Preston Ames for Best Art Direction (Color). Nominations: Edwin B. Willis and F. Keogh Gleason for Set Decoration. Nominations: Norman Corwin for Writing (Screenplay for Adaption). Two hundred enlarged colour photos were used representing Vincent Van Gogh’s completed canvases; these were in addition to copies that were executed by an American art teacher, Robert Parker. In preparation for the film, Kirk Douglas practiced painting crows so that he could reasonably imitate Vincent van Gogh at work. Based on the 1934 novel by Irving Stone and adapted by Norman Corwin.
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, James Donald, Pamela Brown, Everett Sloane, Henry Daniell, Madge Kennedy, Noel Purcell, Niall MacGinnis, Jill Bennett, Lionel Jeffries, Laurence Naismith, Eric Pohlmann, Jeanette Sterke and Toni Gerry
Director: Vincente Minnelli and George Cukor (uncredited supervised one retake)
Producer: John Houseman
Screenplay: Norman Corwin and Irving Stone (novel)
Composer: Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography: Freddie A. Young and Russell Harlan
Video Resolution: 1080p [Metrocolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish [Castilian]: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish [Latin]: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Portuguese: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Spanish [Castilian], Dutch and Spanish [Latin]
Running Time: 122 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: For many years, it was common wisdom in Hollywood that an artist's life was not a successful subject for film and, truth be told, many potentially fascinating biographies have made dreadful films. So, although M-G-M owned the rights since 1946 of Irving Stone's hugely popular 1934 novel about the tortured painter Vincent van Gogh, a film version was repeatedly shelved as too risky. But after a very successful international Vincent van Gogh exhibit in the 1950s introduced his work to hundreds of thousands of people.
Vincente Minnelli was the ideal choice to bring the story to the screen. A former stage designer known for his visual style that mirrored and amplified the dramatic story of each of his films, he was the right match for a movie about a painter. But he had to fight several battles to get the look he wanted; some he won, some he didn't. Vincente Minnelli didn't want to use the CinemaScope aspect ratio for ‘Lust for Life’ and reasoning that, as he said in his autobiography, but the then-popular process was a must for M-G-M, which like every other studio was looking for cinematic gimmicks to overcome the threat of television.
Another problem concerned with filming Vincent van Gogh's actual paintings. The masterpieces could have been ruined by the intense light required for motion picture cameras, so Vincente Minnelli sent crews into museums and private collectors' homes to capture about 200 of Vincent van Gogh's paintings with special portrait cameras that made time exposures without excessive light. Enlarged transparencies were then made of each shot, which were backlit and re-filmed with special lenses.
Clearly, the most dramatic feature of the life of Vincent van Gogh was the difference between his painting, which was forceful and sunny and warm, and the character of his disposition, which was clouded by dark and maddening moods, including the celebrated episode of his slicing off his own ear. Thus, it is gratifying to see that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, in the persons of producer John Houseman and a crew of superb technicians, has consciously made the flow of colour and the interplay of compositions and hues the most forceful devices for conveying a motion picture comprehension of Vincent van Gogh.
The tortuous career of the artist is recounted faithfully, from his experiences as an evangelist in a Belgian mining district to his ultimate suicide. The brutal rebuff of his love is in it, the turmoil of his affair with a prostitute, the uncertainty of his life in Paris and the explosiveness of his residence in Arles with Paul Gauguin. The incidents of the painter's manifestations of insecurity and emotional torment are well arranged, and Kirk Douglas performs them with superior intensity, variety and yet restraint. What is more, and especially fascinating, is the remarkable resemblance he bears to the famous self-portraits of the artist which are discreetly but prominently displayed. Vincente Minnelli's celebration of the life of Vincent van Gogh is well-researched and enjoyable, even if it gives the best lines to Paul Gauguin.
Don't let the catchpenny title, especially from the doorstop biography by Irving Stone, put you off as this is an extremely superior example of the Hollywood biopic, the tale of tortured painter Vincent van Gogh who is uncannily well played by Kirk Douglas, who seems to capture the very essence of the tormented artist, though it was actually Anthony Quinn's Paul Gauguin that won the OSCAR® for this film. It's lovingly crafted by brilliant director Vincente Minnelli, with superb colour and CinemaScope cinematography from Russell Harlan and the great Freddie Young, who was responsible for the glorious look of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and making the authentic Arles location look stunning and Miklos Rozsa, who also did the scores of ‘Spellbound’ and ‘The Lost Weekend’ gives a sweeping magical fine score are also major plus points. This intelligent, beautifully made film was never a commercial success, but it acquired a cult following, largely owing to Vincente Minnelli's colour sense and Kirk Douglas's magnificent crystalline performance.
Touching and tragic, this is a glorious, brilliant film that memorialises the world's greatest painter and perhaps the world's most loving brother. While its early scenes have a Hollywood look about them, much of the film is shot outdoors and has a great breath of air and the free spirit that somehow led Vincent van Gogh to his incredible and indelible visions. Despite half-a-dozen recent attempts to "correct" this biopic, Vincente Minnelli's agonised portrait of the life of Vincent Van Gogh remains the definitive film on the subject of Vincent van Gogh. Intelligently written, made with conviction and crowned by two passionately intense performances, ‘Lust for Life’ is a key film of the mid-1950s. Kirk Douglas wanted to play Van Gogh ever since director Jean Negulesco told him he resembled the artist. He threw himself into the role; to the point of taking on so many of the artist's stormy, unstable traits he frightened his wife in his off-hours at home.
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘Lust for Life’ is presented in a brilliant aspect ratio 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and especially with a stunning 1080p encoded image. The film used what was then a brand-new process dubbed Metrocolor, which replaced three-strip Technicolor with a single three-layer strip. It has been reported that a new 4k scan of the original camera negative was the source for this 1080p encoded Blu-ray. The film's grain structure is fine and natural, and the black levels are excellent, especially when Vincent van Gogh's visit to the coal mines, is a good example.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – ‘Lust for Life’ has a really good 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound field. Characters at the opposite ends of the screen routinely have their voices issuing from the left and right front speakers. The track does not have significant rear channel activity except to open up the lush orchestral score by Miklós Rózsa which is the real benefactor here. This is not a film that has a lot of action, but this soundtrack proves that subtle touches can really make a lot of difference. This is not the type of soundtrack that jumps out as well crafted, but it handles all the basics and throws in some great presence.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Film Historian Dr. Drew Casper: Dr. Drew Casper is the professor of film at the USC and the author of “Vincente Minnelli and the Film Musical” and among other books. This commentary was originally on the 2006 Warner Home Video DVD release. Sadly as Dr. Drew Casper talks about this film and all involved with the film, you can hear he is reading a script. Sadly his voice is very effete, monotone, pedestrian and so very boring, plus he is very effete, which if you look up the in the dictionary, it tells you that a person of this personality who is “effete” it says they are affected, over-refined, ineffectual, artificial and pretentious, plus his research and minimal charisma doesn’t help, so if you can stay awake while he drones on, you will learn some worthwhile information.
Special Feature: Van Gogh: Darkness into Light  [1080p] [16:9] [20:20] M-G-M produced this short film Van Gogh: Darkness Into Light, and is narrated and presented by Dore Schary and showing the European locations used for the filming, to promote the film ‘Lust for Life.’ In the film, a 75-year-old woman from Auvers-sur-Oise and not Jeanne Calment, who lived in Arles several hundred kms to the south, who claims to have known Vincent van Gogh when she was a young girl, meets star actor Kirk Douglas, and comments on how much he looks like the painter. At the start and ending of the film, the creators list and thank a number of galleries, collectors, and historians who allowed the works of Vincent van Gogh to be photographed for the film.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [2.55:1] [3:04] This is the original trailer for ‘Lust for Life.’
Finally, for a 50-year-old film, ‘Lust for Life' image is surprisingly bright and vibrant. Warner Home Video has done a commendable job restoring this film to a condition that must be comparable to what audiences saw in 1956. Those who saw the film during its original cinema run, or those who have a passion for overly melodramatic films classics, will probably find much to praise about ‘Lust for Life,’ which was always a very special film; especially with Vincente Minnelli’s intensity behind the camera felt in every frame projected onto the screen. Here, at long last, is the film in a manner befitting its artistry. You are going to love this Blu-ray disc. It’s that simple. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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