Van Gogh brush with genius


Van Gogh brush with genius documentary about Van Gogh's career as a painter.  This 40 minute film, with good shots of 41 paintings,  was made for showing in IMAX theaters. In addition to the movie, there is a 20-minute "Making of" documentary and  a "Van Gogh Art" slide show with still shots of 25 of the 41 paintings. The main film was directed by François Bertrand based an original idea from Peter Knapp; book by Marie Seller; original music by Armand Amar. Directed for TV by Vincent Mathias. This film was produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films, a company that has made many IMAX action movies. Released 2010, disc has dts-HD Master Audio surround sound. Grade: B

This was originally made to be shown in IMAX theaters on their special giant surround screens. The audience at these theaters doesn't consist of fine-arts lovers---it's families on vacation with kids. The usual IMAX subjects are jet fighters, race cars, volcanoes, collapsed civilizations, and crocodiles. It took a lot of guts for the IMAX folks to try a show about the art of a single impressionist painter. So how do you jazz up this subject to hold short attention spans? Well, try time-lapse photography of the Paris d'Orsay museum looking like a hive with human bees and the Seine looking like an amusement park ride.

For most of his life, Van Gogh did only 4 things: eat, sleep, paint, and write letters to his brother, the successful art dealer. So why not introduce a sub-story about a beautiful young female art historian reading Van Gogh letters which then speak to her in Van Gogh's voice?

IMAX shows start off as short features, so action scenes threaten to cut rather painfully into the time available to contemplate paintings. Van Gogh speaks in voice-over in the film in English, but with a heavy accent that can make it hard to understand what he's saying. If you're going to have Van Gogh speaking English, why not give him an authentic accent? And if you insist on presenting English with a foreign accent, then please also furnish subtitles.

This is one of the two discs we have applying the radiance of high-definition TV to famous paintings (both discs are about Van Gogh.). This is not an academic film, and the paintings are not identified. But the action scenes together with numerous glowing landscape and location shots show us the desperation and glory of Van Gogh's career and get across its premise: Van Gogh wasn't crazy, but he did maybe suffer from that mental disorder that sometimes causes geniuses to work themselves to death (think Mozart).

The film shows convincingly that HDVD images of fine-art paintings are gorgeous and compelling far beyond anything that can be printed in books. We have seen a good number of Van Gogh paintings hanging on walls. The TV image isn't the same as being there. But it's pretty close, and it can't do anything except make you want to get on an airplane and visit some museums.

Shot with with state-of-the-art movie film equipment at 24 frames per second, this title is technically impressive. The colors seem accurately rendered on our TVs.  The background music comes over beautifully in 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. So this is a very nice if somewhat light-weight title that would have special appeal to kids or younger art students, and we give it a solid B.

Here's a nice official YT clip about this disc: