There has been a wide palette of cinematic Van Goghs. This superb, leisurely evocation, which concentrates on the last 67 days of the painter's life in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, is less a portrait of the artist than a portrait of the man. Director-screenwriter Maurice Pialat offers up a strong contrast to that most familiar Vincent—Kirk Douglas as a tortured genius in the 1956 Lust for Life. Dutronc's Vincent is not a depressed lunatic; instead, he is boorish, self-involved and a trial to all who know him.
No one comes off terribly well. Van Gogh's art-dealer brother Theo (Bernard Le Coq), usually viewed as an endlessly supportive saint, is here a faithless husband and no particular champion of Vincent. ("Deep down I don't like his painting," he tells his wife.) The doctor (Gérard Sety) who treats Vincent and whose daughter is first the painter's subject, then his lover, is viewed as an irredeemable hypocrite. Van Gogh makes little attempt to be art history; it is flavorsome, revisionist soap opera. (In French with subtitles) (R)