Van Gogh: Brush With Genius IMAX
by Jef Burnham
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Image Entertainment.
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I have a great deal of respect for the intentions of the filmmakers behind Brush With Genius— to present Van Gogh not for his madness as so many other documentaries before have, but for his genius as an artist. However, ostentatious narration and inconsistent framing of Van Gogh’s paintings themselves make for a troubled pleasurable viewing experience.
The narration is delivered by Jacques Gamblin as Van Gogh himself, speaking directly to us of his life, work, and legacy from the grave. Though the intention of this was no doubt to humanize Van Gogh, he often comments on how he likes this or that modern day person/thing and the whole affair seems incredibly silly. Given that portions of the dialogue are derived from the artist’s countless letters to his brother, it seems the writers might have composed a more believable, more educational narration using only passages from his letters.
Furthermore, the film’s depiction of Van Gogh’s paintings is often incredible in the HD transfer, placing us directly in the painting that we might touch his characteristic brushstrokes and layering. However, the filmmakers often shoot the paintings at an awkward skewed angle and pull focus across the shots so that only a small portion is in focus at once. The effect hardly does justice to Van Gogh’s work, especially when compared to the straight-on close-up shots so often employed throughout the film.
The film itself is only 40 minutes in length. And with so many problems, I could hardly recommend this release for purchase, save for only those most devoted Van Gogh fans. Otherwise, it is worth a look at best, and only on account of the many revealing close-ups of iconic Van Gogh paintings and the breathtakingly captured landscapes the artist himself once painted.
Special features include a Making of Documentary (shot in HD) and a 4-minute art slide show set to music from the film.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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