(director: Robert Altman; screenwriter: Julian Mitchell; cinematographer: Jean Lepine; editors: Francoise Coispeau/Geraldine Peroni; music: Gabriel Yared; cast: Tim Roth (Vincent Van Gogh), Paul Rhys (Theo Van Gogh), Johanna Ter Steege (Jo Bonger), Wladimir Yordanoff (Paul Gaugin), Jip Wijngaarden (Sien Hoornik), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Dr Paul Gachet), Bernadette Giraud (Marguerite Gachet); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Ludi Boeken/Emma Hayter; MGM Home Entertainment; 1990-UK/France)

“Shows us the artist’s greatness by allowing it to be self-apparent without lecturing us.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Altman(“The Long Goodbye”/”Nashville”/”Cookie’s Fortune”) perceptive study of 19th century Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s (Tim Roth) last years, as seen through the eyes of his supportive Paris-based art dealer older brother Theo (Paul Rhys). Using his keen artistic eyes, Altman’s thought-provoking brilliant look at the tortured genius artist’s foibles and at his creativity despite his tragic personal life shows us the artist’s greatness by allowing it to be self-apparent without lecturing us. Julian Mitchell’s intelligently honest and emotionally moving screenplay covers Van Gogh’s decision to paint full-time up until his suicide (the death of Theo followed six months later).

Though a conventional film, according to Altman standards, it’s intriguing because of its insights into Van Gogh’s trip to be a painter no matter the cost. Altman depicts in all its physicality the warts of both brothers, the symbiotic relationship of the brothers and how obsessed the painter was with improving his craft, trying to stave off loneliness and mental illness, and going on with his chosen vocation despite public rejection. Tim Roth successfully inhabits the moody artist’s heroic quest with an intense performance and Paul Rhys is superb as the twitchy timid brother, pictured as being just as unhappy as his living on the edge artist brother. The pic also points out the shaky arrangement between art and finance.

Jean Lepine’ lush photography makes the pic look like a work of art, while Gabriel Yared’ vexing score finely underscores the underlying testy dynamics of living only for art.