This expressive if sanitized version of Van Gogh’s life is visually impressive. Director Vincent Minnelli spray painted a field so that the colors would match Van Gogh’s pallet. The main beats of his life are touched upon but let’s face facts. The life of Van Gogh isn’t all that uplifting. He struggled with mental illness, was never appreciated during his time, was lonely, lived in poverty, and finally committed suicide. Did I mention he was lonely? No matter, the film covers that point. Maybe it says more about modern audiences that the tortured genius needs to have that moment of redemption, ala A Beautiful Mind, but the film ends up reading as “bad stuff happens to guy we care about”.
I’ve seen few Kirk Douglas films, and frequently I’ve confused him for Charlton Heston, but I wanted to give this legend his due. Upon his recent passing I looked for one of his films to watch. I couldn’t easily get my hands on Paths of Glory (for free) but TCM was running Lust for Life. It was a natural choice. The Bad and the Beautiful wasn’t going to happen.
I wanted to love Lust for Life, but couldn't. As mentioned it is a great looking film, and Douglas’ performance was impressive, if a little one-note, but I wasn’t drawn in. The story plodded along at times and characters entered and exited the story before we got to know them. Van Gogh was not a heroic character. We don't see a flawed character overcome his obstacles, and it was too sanitized to be a compelling biopic. AMRU 3.