Vincent & Theo (1990)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 2, 1990 (USA)  |   Run Time - 138 min.  |   Countries - France , United Kingdom , Netherlands , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Michael Hastings

Robert Altman's moody, grungy vision of the brothers van Gogh, made for British television, opens with televised footage of the historic, multi-million dollar auction of van Gogh's "Sunflowers" and proceeds to de-mythologize van Gogh, from his ear-slashing incident to his impudent relationship with Paul Gaugin (Vladimir Yordanoff). In the hands of Tim Roth, van Gogh's legendary eccentricities (paint-eating, epileptic twitches) are reduced to mere mannerisms, as natural to the character as his shuffling gait and distant gaze. Citing the director's stance as a Hollywood expatriate for most of the 1980s, some critics saw the film as a bitter Altman riff on art, commerce, and neglected genius. But Altman rarely resorts to self-pity or comeuppance: his Vincent is an insular, instinctive loner who manages to alienate anyone close to him, save for his dedicated brother Theo (Paul Rhys). Rhys' neurotic, ambitious art dealer gives the picture some footing, and he lends credence to the script's conceit that the siblings shared an almost telepathic relationship. Altman took some license with the film's painting scenes -- he plops van Gogh, canvas and all, in the middle of fields of sunflowers -- but the sequences have a buzzy, inebriated energy as shot by Jean Lepine. Vincent and Theo works well as a counterpoint to Vincente Minnelli's and Kirk Douglas' sprightly 1956 conception of the artist, Lust for Life.