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France, 1991 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Maurice Pialat

Maurice Pialat's long-awaited Van Gogh comes as a surprise because it takes a new slant on the great Dutch painter's life. The sumptuous production omits many of the sta­ple elements of the Van Gogh story, including the famous ear-slashing incident, but still casts a magical spell. Van Gogh opens with the artists arrival by train in a small village, where he visits the local doctor for an examination. The doctor is something of an art lover and invites Van Gogh to say in his house. Van Gogh uses the doctor's lovely young daughter, Marguerite, as a model, and eventually they become lovers, to the kindly Dad's consterna­tion. Meanwhile, Van Gogh's relationship to his brother, Theo, grows increasingly tense and bitter. Pialat suggests this was in part because of Vincent's attraction for his brother's wife.

Pialat lets scenes linger: a visit to a Paris nightclub where the can-can is danced, or Theo's wife bathing herself in front of her admiring husband. Jacques Dutronc gives a fine performance as the suffering artist, with Alexandra London a delight as the sweet daughter who falls heavily for him.

• David Stralton, Variety

//I met Marguerite Gachet in 1953, before her death, and I asked her [about herself and Van Gogh]...'Definitely not true!'...But this isn't the question. The presence of the Gachet daughter is only the proof of what I wish to advance: Vincent Van Gogh was a man, like any other...At the start of the film, Van Gogh doesn't know he is Van Gogh [the famous artist] and doesn't know he is going to die...Despite the liberties that I've taken, I think I am closer to the truth than all the 'authorized' biographies. Do you think perhaps I ought to change the title? Isn't everyone fed up with Van Gogh?...The title's not important. Well, then, perhaps I should have called my film

Marguerite Gachet." •Maurice Pialat

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