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Friday, February 20, 2015

Lust For Life (1956)

After his attempt at a religious career fails, Vincent Van Gogh (Kirk Douglas) becomes obsessed with painting. He fights his inner demons as best he can but they will eventually get the better of him. Unsuccessful in his lifetime, posterity will validate his genius. Based on the Irving Stone biography, Vincente Minnelli's film on the life of Van Gogh manages to cut through the phoniness of most Hollywood biographies. Shot in the CinemaScope format, Minnelli and his cinematographers Freddie Young and Russell Harlan (incredibly not Oscar Nominated) do an amazing job of recreating Van Gogh's palette visually, the colors and the textures. Then there's Kirk Douglas's performance. As an actor, Douglas can be problematic. He's almost too intense for many of his roles, he seems like he's ready to jump out of his skin. Here, it's used to perfection. You can believe he's a soul in constant torment, you can almost smell the sweat coming off him. Normally, Douglas is so imposing that no one gets the best of him but Anthony Quinn as Paul Gauguin (in an Oscar winning performance) manages to intimidate him believably. Stimulating, moving and eventually heartbreaking, it's one of the best films about art, artists and the art of creating. Miklos Rozsa's score is a thing of beauty. With James Donald, Pamela Brown, Everett Sloane, Henry Daniell, Isobel Elsom, Lionel Jeffries, Jill Bennett, Niall MacGinnis and Madge Kennedy.

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