Maurice Pialat’s 1991 portrait of Van Gogh’s last months eschews sensationalism for the director’s trademark realism. “Arguably the greatest biographical film about an artist ever made." — Sight & Sound
Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Once seen, never forgotten, Pialat’s portrait of the last months in the life of Van Gogh has a miraculous limpidity. Its naturalism and its abundant sense of country life may leave you with the poignant feeling that, like so many of the characters in the film, you’ve been in the presence of a remarkable man without quite realising it at the time. The film is set largely in Auvers-sur-Oise, where the self-destructive artist (indelibly played with a lurking, willful passivity by Jacques Dutronc) comes to live in the sun under the patronage and medical care of the free-thinking Dr Gachet. Their relationship becomes strained when Van Gogh begins an affair with Gachet’s young daughter. Meanwhile, the artist’s already-troubled relationship with brother Théo deteriorates further. Pialat eschews the sensational staples of the Van Gogh story for the intimacy, objectivity, relentless realism and remarkable avoidance of sentimentality that are his hallmarks.
“Arguably the greatest biographical film about an artist ever made.” — David Thompson, Sight & Sound