Beautified Life Versus Life’s Spiritual Body (Dr. Gachet and Van Gogh)

Maurice Pialat (in the center), and Jacques Dutronc (Vincent Van Gogh) at Cannes Film Festival (1991)

44th Cannes Film Festival 1991: The Team Of Film Van Gogh By Maurice Pialat. Le 44ème Festival de CANNES se déroule du 9 au 20 mai 1991 : Jacques DUTRONC cigare aux lèvres entre Maurice PIALAT et Alexandra LONDON. (Photo by Jean-Claude Deutsch/Jacques Lange/Paris Match via Getty Images)
Pialat, Dutronc (in the center) and Alexandra London at Cannes Film Festival (1991)

The usual approach to van Gogh is to view him as a mixture of a genius and mentally ill (in different proportions, depending on who expresses the opinion). But Maurice Pialat depicts van Gogh as a human being – who is burdened by everyday life, drinking, hopeful, despaired, humorous, joking and fearful, pursued by the circumstances, trying to avoid destiny and looking at its face, VG in love, in sex, in fury, in lucidity, in confusion. VG (Jacques Dutronc) is simultaneously like everybody and the social other, he is common and unique, opaque and unconcealed. And he is strong in following his stubborn talent or following the meaning of his life inseparable from it. His pictorial talent is represented without sentimental fetishization – as an extension of his personality into a concrete area of creative self-realization. The director underlines the working process of van Gogh’s creativity by inferring his vision from the unique strokes of his brush as its material substance.

Pialat defines van Gogh as a person with an appearance of a workman, by his heavy and slow waddle, by simple manners, by chariness of words, especially in comparison with Dr, Gachet’s elegant mannerisms or Theo’s impersonal mimics and dosed intonations. Pialat’s accent in the film is the incompatibility of creative power in art and adherence of the artist to the ideology of beauty. To discover/create new aesthetics the artist has to be able to overcome the existing criteria of beauty with the safety and security that go with it. To be an aesthete in the area of art is another word for being a comfortable conformist. New is always seems ugly. Aesthetics cannot be created by an aesthete. Sophistication can’t be result of the very orientation on sophistication. Beauty can be created only if it is not perceived as beauty. In this relation we today are not in an easier situation than in the times of van Gogh’s suicide. For a really creative person to become successful contradicts his creative dedication, and great art can be more mortal than it could be imagined.

Dr. Gachet is simultaneously a physician and an aesthete, while VG is depicted in the film as a paradoxical combination of a worker and creator of art. Already in the very beginning of the film when van Gogh is stepping out of the train and walking in the direction of the inn we notice his pantomimic as indication of his closeness to earth, his being as if submerged into life and nature and the fact that physical work is habitual to him. By contrast the pantomimic of Dr. Gachet (Gerard Sety) suggests a lack of rootedness in life and alienation from nature that are compensated by his easy-goingness, pointedly elegant manners and beauty-fetishism. While Gachet is, as if, trying to control the stubborn matter through medical knowledge and beautify what is possible, VG is trying to find a new, spiritualized body for life in a new spiritualized matter created by his painting method.

The human world as it is, as if, belongs to Gachet – aestheticism is going together with indifference towards other people, with posture of control and air of inequality, with death and wars, while van Gogh is depicted as the opposite of the fallen angel – as angel who didn’t ascended yet.

The acting of even episodic characters is a result of learned spontaneity, of deep psychological research. There are no just intuitive sketchy silhouettes of personages. Instead, the viewers are overwhelmed by the actors’ exact delivery of the reactions of the personages. Jacques Dutronc and Alexandra London (VG and Marguerite), Jacques Dutronc and Elsa Zylberstein (VG and Kathy), Gerard Sety and Alexandra London (Dr. Gachet and his daughter Marguerite), Jacques Dutronc and Bernard Le Coq (VG and Theo) and Bernard Le Coq and Corinne Bourdou (Theo and his wife Jo) are not just extraordinary performers but sorcerers of psychological incarnation into the characters. Their achievements are result of a new school of acting where scientific research of the human soul going together with a mastery of psychological concentration.

Vincent contemplates his inevitable suicide

Van Gogh in the field (1)

Van Gogh in the field (2)

Van Gogh at Dr. Gachet’s place is finishing painting of Marguerite in the garden

Van Gogh is paying to his mistress Kathy, the prostitute (Elsa Zylberstein)

Vincent and Marguerite’s rare moment of simple human happiness together

Vincent and Marguerite in love and in nature

After love with Vincent in the fields, Marguerite Gachet is not just washing off the soil and dirt, but cleaning her body from the “moral dirt” she exposed herself to according to her father’s frame of reference

Dr. Gachet looks at the copies of his portrait by Vincent, but avoids buying. So, he is getting one copy free, as a gift.

Vincent after shooting himself

Vincent before dying

Posted on May 23, 2015 –   Maurice Pialat’s “Van Gogh” (1991) – Humanity of the Genius (Van Gogh as the Non-conformist Human Nature Able To Create A New, Spiritualized Body For Life Of A New Spiritualized Matter Discovered By His Painting Method) by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on July 6 2010 –   Vincent Van Gogh’s Suicide Self-Portraits – Painting into the Death  by Acting-Out Politics