29 November 2008 | rbloom333
Although Robert Altman is proficient in re-creating the scenery of Van Gogh's life through the eyes of the painter with striking color and a vaguely bohemian atmosphere, he still fails to present Van Gogh the man or the artist in with any genuine originality. He focuses on Van Gogh, the tormented saint-artist, who forges ahead on the canvas with a drive to present the "suffering" of humanity. However, Altman precludes Van Gogh's obvious manias, his periods of demented elation. It is impossible to believe that the Van Gogh presented here could have produced those vibrant wheat fields in Arles, or the Night Café. What remains in this fractured (though never incompetent biopic), is Tim Roth's virtuoso performance; he managed to literally crawl into the skin of Van Gogh, and the result may frighten you. However, his virtuosity always overshadows Paul Rhys' rather tepid presentation of his brother Theo, though there are other admirable performances in the film, such as Wladimir Yordanoff's amiable presentation of Gauguin. Altman seems to be commenting, rather uninterestingly, about the commercial dimension of artistry, and of the impossibility of true recognition of genius. This is a conventional portrait of the unrecognized genius, it is a tale told again and again. However, Altman's imagery is captivating (with the help of Storraro), the photography looks like vibrant halos emitted by Van Gogh's paintings, though the musical score is dreadful and morbid. Still you much watch this one for Tim Roth's inspired performance if nothing else.