Every frame of this film, about a mystery surrounding the death of artist Vincent Van Gogh, was hand-painted over in oil paint in the style of Van Gogh. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
You have, I am certain, never seen anything quite like “Loving Vincent,” which is being promoted as the world’s first entirely hand-painted movie. It’s an animated film, but that descriptor isn’t quite accurate: To tell this story about a mystery surrounding the 1890 death of artist Vincent Van Gogh, filmmakers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman assembled a cast, found period-appropriate costumes and sets, and shot the film. Then the real work began: Every frame — more than 65,000 of them — was hand-painted over in oil paint in the style of Van Gogh, by a team of more than 100 artists.
The result is a curious and often exquisite blend of two art forms. With settings and characters inspired by a number of Van Gogh’s paintings, the film unfolds as if the viewer fell asleep in a museum and dreamt of art that came alive. Blue clouds swirl over a village; a night sky blinks with lacy stars; a butter-yellow sun sinks over a tangerine-colored field; a dim tavern is lit by gold and green rings of light — all rendered in visibly textured brushstrokes. Rain falls in dashes of straight gray lines; a head of blond hair catches a bit of blue from the sky.
“Loving Vincent” is almost too beautiful for its own good; I found myself, too often, so dazzled by the form that I quite forgot about the content. If this script had been conventionally filmed and released, I suspect the movie might be quickly forgotten; the story, which moves backward and forward from Van Gogh’s life into events after his death, doesn’t feel fully developed. But that doesn’t really matter; it was a pleasure to become happily lost in this unique film’s world of color and line, and to see two filmmakers’ mad dream come true.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Loving Vincent,’ with Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Aidan Turner, Helen McCrory. Written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violence, sexual material and smoking. Opens Oct. 20 at SIFF Cinema Uptown.