Maurice PialatFrance160 minutes1991ColourFrench
"One of the ten best films of [its] decade" (Michel Ciment) and voted one of the best films of the nineties in TIFF Cinematheque's international poll of film curators and historians, Maurice Pialat's Van Gogh captures the last days of the painter with immense intensity and emotional restraint. Shot in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh spent his final months, the film remakes the "artist's life" genre by clearing away myth and hewing, with harsh, naturalistic poetry, to facts. (In this and many other ways, Pialat is the heir of Bresson.) Embodied with startling inwardness by Jacques Dutronc, who gives perhaps the best performance of his formidable career, the tormented artist is clearly another of Pialat's alter egos. Distilled, humane, immensely moving — its final line will rend your heart — Van Gogh is "a film of compelling beauty and humanity.... Both Pialat and Dutronc employ magisterial discretion and restraint as they evoke Van Gogh's terrifying final hours" (Le Monde).