Last night I watched Loving Vincent. It was, as a review tag said, “a fitting miraculous tribute to its subject.” It really is for experiencing than for describing, and the film demonstrates how this is so for Vincent VanGogh himself, for his work and for all Life.
This film, nominated for “best animated feature” Oscar this year, lost to the Pixar romp Coco, a sweet and cleverly-executed crowd-pleaser, which carried good sentiment and sociological import and a familiar form and method. While the animator for the dog in that film might merit an Oscar on his own, overall, compared with Vincent (especially technically), Coco seems an engaging, latin flavored been-there-done-that. I saw none of the other contenders, so this isn’t about who should have won. I’m just sayin’….
Loving Vincent was far more soulful and innovative, with a more engaging plot than I expected, given one reviewer’s impression. The plot– simple and quietly engaging on its own– while it carried its own poignancy (and a profound message), served as a supportive and necessary vehicle for the spectacle of animated oil painting; yet it could not help but be a distraction from that very miracle.
….Kind of like LIFE: Every moment is a miracle of creation, yet is obscured by the mundanity and minutia of existence, the myopia of the human mind– the forest obscured by trees. The film demonstrates how focus on story, on conflict, on past, deflects and defers from centerstage the sheer teeming life power, radiant Love for which these painting were vessels.
Occasionally, when a fresh new scene splashed on screen, reproducing another of Vincent’s masterpieces, I received, anew, the (capital T) Transmission, the power of his work. His thick brush work is some of the most kinetic painting we know; it Lives, it ripples, swirls, throbs in the brain and body already. Then to see the obvious next step of animating those strokes, is almost (not quite) like gilding the lily. Animating those strokes –changing their individual colors and angles rhythmically and “randomly”, like sunlight on water, seems a case of technology catching up with destiny, and almost an afterthought. Yet it is satisfying, like caressing not only his memory, but the common human Heart.
The experience translates the power of his painting for a new, very kinetic age, and rejuvenate the power to move us that VanGogh has always had, because it taps a well of soul and human potential we all carry. It is why so many feel an intimacy with him; it is why I, Don McClean and countless others call him by his first name.
“This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you,” the song laments. But I wonder if it is also the inverse; this world is exactly meant for one as beautiful as he– for his few moments, and a few hundred paintings– to redeem. Isn’t that the highest purpose, to Love, to celebrate Beauty, to recognize the Trees of Love that make up the Forest of the World?