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Vincent & Theo (1990)

3.8 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The eternal struggle between madness and genius takes its toll on the brothers Van Gogh in this "luminous" (LA Weekly) masterpiece from Academy Award®-nominated* director Robert Altman. Tim Roth and Paul Rhys give "stupendous performances" (Rolling Stone) in the roles of tortured artist Vincent and his brother Theo in this "beautiful, disturbing and powerful film" (Screen) that is "as rich and tactile as a Van Gogh painting" (New York Post).In life, hewas impoverished, his work largely ignored; yet today, paintings by Vincent Van Gogh fetch millionsof dollars at auction. This supreme irony is laid bare in the passionate story of an obsessive artist driven by inexorable demons and his alternately devoted and despairing younger brother, who seemsunable to live with him or without him.*2001: Gosford Park; 1993: Short Cuts; 1992: The Player; 1975: Nashville; 1970: M*A*S*H


Robert Altman, the great ironist of American movies, can't resist beginning Vincent & Theo with video of an art auction at Christie's, where Van Gogh's Sunflowers attracts dizzying multi-million-dollar bids. Dissolve to the utterly squalid hovel where Vincent (Tim Roth) lives--reminding us that the artist sold but one painting in his poor, tormented lifetime. Vincent & Theo is an unusual and--fittingly enough--impressionistic look at Vincent and his brother Theo (Paul Rhys), the mad genius and the art broker. These parallel lives unfold, with Vincent's celebrated wallow in the fires of art running alongside Theo's neurotic struggle to fit into the real world. Roth is mesmerizing and frightening as Vincent, while Rhys gives a more mannered performance that fits Theo's tortured ambivalence. The eerie buzz of Gabriel Yared's music helps us get inside Vincent's head. If the true-life circumstances are unavoidably grim and Altman's pace is slow, almost druggy, the film nevertheless casts a spell. (Vincent's eloquent letters to Theo are beautifully used in Paul Cox's Vincent, a good companion piece to this version of the artist's life.) --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Featurette: Film as Fine Art with Robert Altman and Stephen Altman
  • Special features not closed captioned

Product Details

  • Actors: Tim Roth, Paul Rhys, Johanna ter Steege, Wladimir Yordanoff, Jean-Pierre Cassel
  • Directors: Robert Altman
  • Writers: Julian Mitchell
  • Producers: Ludi Boeken, David Conroy, Jacques Fansten
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: August 23, 2005
  • Run Time: 140 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009X7BHI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,366 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Vincent & Theo (1990)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J from NY VINE VOICE on June 14, 2007
Format: DVD
Director Robert Altman has with this film accomplished something biographers, writers of fiction, art historians and yes, filmmakers, have failed at for so long: to give us a convincing portrayal of painter Vincent Van Gogh's life without falling too deeply into the harmful stereotype of "the mad genius" or trying to explain him away as a severely ill man who happened to have groundbreaking talent.

Both Tim Roth and Paul Rhys give exquisite, painful, but never over the top performances as two men who are intimately linked in a way that suggests something more than mere brotherhood. Outwardly they have very little in common aside from being biologically linked: Theo is an art curator who endures the daily trials of the average man with perhaps a little more poverty; Vincent is an isolated painter who operates from an area of the mind and spirit which allows him no rest and no integration into society.

Tim Roth's Van Gogh is a quietly explosive figure who walks in the avenues of his own unrelenting pain and occasional ecstasy at the revelations he has in the most uncanny situations--drawing a prostitue while defecating, for instance. He is in some ways the opposite of Kirk Douglas' overbearing, sentimental painter who begs the world to understand him. This Van Gogh just doesn't care and sneers at the world unless it really bothers him, and then he lets everyone know how he's feeling in a way that is not to be ignored.

Rhys make Theo as interesting if not more. He is also "somewhere else", and not in the sense of a mere romantic cliche. He is a staid businessman but, like his brother, he is violently unable to reconcile himself to the world around him which is mostly composed of phonies and mediocrities.
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Format: DVD
Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters, and the story of his life as we know it has inspired countless generations. Other than Kirk Douglas' tormented portrait in LUST FOR LIFE, I'd never even heard of a film portraying Van Gogh.

Now comes VINCENT AND THEO (more than likely inspired by Leonard Nimoy's famous 1-man play "Theo", all about Theo Van Gogh)--this film is in some ways really ahead of its time. Directed by Robert Altman, released in 1990, Vincent (brilliant Tim Roth) is really quite smart but obviously ill. Theo (a terribly twitchy Paul Rhys) is the madman here.

There was a love/hate thing I felt about that. In real life, Theo was Vincent's reliable rock, his support and his lifeline--to Theo, Vincent was a hero. They loved one another, and Vincent's mystery illness hurt them both. That is all this movie has in common with reality.

Yet the locations, the cinematography...I never thought I'd ever see that world in which Vincent lived. In this film I felt I was really there, really, really, there! The British came close to this recently with a "Dr. Who" episode featuring Vincent, but still!

The soundtrack, though it becomes repetitive, is a miracle. I loved its ominous overture, and it struck me 1/4 of the way through that the music was trying to paint in sound like Vincent painted in oils. It made me so happy to think that, it helped me ignore some of the ugly rough-and-tumble of this film.

If there is one weakness it is the sagging moments. There is no clear need for these, and they seem almost an allergy of Altman's, but here they are and they get uncomfortable. I was able to go to the sandbox and when I returned the film was still on the same darned sagging scene.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Let me preface this review with a bit of my own background, as regards what I was hoping for, in this little-known film about the incomparable creative genius, Vincent van Gogh:
I have been a life-long admirer of his art, both the paintings and his voluminous , intensely personal correspondence with his art-dealer brother, Theo. I've been to Amsterdam, solely to see many of his originals, in the Van Gogh Museum there. I own numerous books about his life and art, including the complete three volume set of his letters to Theo, which director Robert Altman reportedly used as the backbone of this film. I have read Irving Stone's 1934 classic piece of historical fiction, "Lust For Life" probably half a dozen times, and own the 1956 Kirk Douglas movie version as well. My home is filled with various reproductions of Vincent's art, including even many of his charcoal sketch works, and a few more expensive oil reproductions, too. He is my favorite artist, and was my personal introduction to art in general, when at the unknowing age of 14 I stumbled into the Impressionist wing at the Art Institute in Chicago (my home town), and found myself transfixed in front of "The Sower". I doubt I'll ever be the same. Even my first kiss from a girl comes in second to the magic of that moment.

So you can see, when I stumbled on the many favorable reviews for this movie ("Vincent and Theo") on this site (half of the 25 reviews to date consider this a 5 star movie), I bought a copy, sight unseen, hoping that the iconoclastic director Robert Altman would finally capture the full scope and intensity of Vincent Van Gogh's creative genius, as well as the endearing true story of Vincent's special relationship to his brother Theo.
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