This morning I saw for the first time the 1956 film, Lust for Life, based on the Irving Stone bio of brilliant-but-tortured post-Impressionist artist, Vincent Van Gogh. It is obvious that director Vincent Minnelli and crew had admiration and respect for Van Gogh’s talents and worked hard to get the right look for the film and also managed to remain reasonably faithful to Van Gogh’s true story.
Many museums and private owners allowed their Van Gogh paintings to be photographed for the movie. Shot in Metrocolor, it is inconcievable the film would have had the same breathtaking visual impact if shot in black & white. Van Gogh’s out-sized personality–his obsessive need for love and acceptance, passionate about capturing his artistic vision on canvas, driven by the inner demons of his mental illness that also drove people out of his life demanded a sweeping color canvas on film that matched the vividness of his paintings.
Kirk Douglas was nominated for an Oscar for his performance; having also seen Yul Brenner’s The King & I, I have to say I do consider Douglas’s the superior performance. He captured the intensity and passion of Vincent, his attempt to invest his canvases with an emotional honesty, with a life and vigor that practically leaps off the canvas.
Seeing Douglas’s performance as Van Gogh, I could not help but recall Richard as Monet in The Impressionists. Another one of my favorite artists, brilliantly portrayed. Both actors captured the artists’ “lust for life.” Who are some of your favorite artists?