Friday, March 04, 2016

lust for life [1956]

i went thru a phase, quite common to young creative types, that worshiped certain artists.  the more tormented the artist the better.  i loved vincent van gogh when i was a pup.  i wanted to be him.  intense, focused, electric.  i read the letters, looked at the paintings, read biographies and watched movies such as this one by filmmaker vincente minnelli and george cukor.

but when i first saw this flick i didn't care for kirk douglas' portrayal of the suffering painter.  i didn't care for irving stone's novel either, the source of this pic.  but i read it and i watched this film and tho i admire douglas work in other movies somehow his vincent was painted too broadly for my tastes.

now i've changed my mind.  anna and i watched this movie a couple nights ago and i loved douglas' vincent.  i long thought van gogh was a troubled soul but was a good man.  the evidence of his goodness is in vincent's letters.  kirk douglas plays vincent as a good person who suffers at a pitch that would make ol' job cry uncle.

furthermore, anthony quinn plays the asshole paul gauguin and it is his presence that really makes the screen sizzle.  the two actors, quinn and douglas, together is magic.  i don't like gauguin.  he really was an asshole.  his paintings are good, yes, but he ain't the star and focus of this movie.  vincent van gogh is.  and rather than make vincnent into a saint minnelli had the decency to concentrate on the paintings, as in the act of painting and also the finished work.  plus the french landscape under minnelli's gaze lights up like a vincent van gogh painting.

i did a little research on this movie and found that kirk douglas was so convincing as vincent van gogh there were old timers in arles who thought the painter had been brought back from the dead when they saw douglas as vincent.  moreover, the title of this movie, lust for life, is so appropriate for its subject and anyone who chooses a creative life, however we define creative and life.  but the lust part i take to mean to embrace life wholly without fear and without reservation.

grab hold of life and give it a big squeeze and do your work.  carpefuckingdiem.  this movie, in color, blazes with life.  douglas is magnificent as vincent van gogh and treats us, the audience, to a complicated, loving human being we created some of the most dynamic paintings the world as ever seen.  lust for fucking life, brothers and sisters.



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