Willem Dafoe’s Vincent isn’t much of a people person. He is unsanitary, drinks too much and is prone to visionary delusions. When a group of schoolkids disturb him painting in the woods, he loses it and chases them and their teacher away (to be fair, they did look like a bunch of bastards who had it coming).
Seeing as Vincent’s only friends are the couple running the local bar, his brother Theo pays Paul Gauguin to go down and look after him. When the stifling village life and Vincent’s constant whining proves too be too much, Gauguin moves away leading to another strop from Vincent, and the famous Ear Incident.
While Vincent is clearly unwell and mentally unstable – doing time in an asylum for a while – the audience may be a little indulgent because the idler who living off his brother’s meagre money and screaming like an infant if he doesn’t get his own way is the Famous Painter and not some untalented nomark. If we were living in Arles, we might also be considering signing the petition to drive him out of town.
Whatever. The film is a very interesting portrait of a troubled man, struggling to keep it together. I think its less good at helping us understand his art any better, clinging too tightly to the troubled artist theory which ultimately fails to put art in any historical or social context. To back this up, there’s a little too much mystic theorizing, which doesn’t make you hate the film but has you every so often wanting to shout “oh do get on with it!”
It’s worth a see, but might have been likened up with a couple of car chases.
Post Script: i think its great that when the French people are talking to each other they do it in your actual French. And i see why it could be plausible that Vincent and Gauguin communicate in English. But why on earth do Vincent and Theo talk to each other in English when no-one else is around? Just asking