Loving Vincent

An occasionally dazzling but ultimately flat portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.

It’s perhaps fitting that a film whose theme is the fluidity of truth opens with a questionable statement: “The film you are about to see has been entirely hand-painted by a team of over 100 artists.” The Van Gogh-inspired visual aesthetic is indeed the main draw of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s Loving Vincent, but to say it was “entirely” hand-painted is perhaps misleading. Storywise, frequent Van Gogh subject Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) investigates Vincent’s death one year after the fact, leading to many Citizen Kane-style flashbacks as those who knew him tell their oft-contradictory stories.

Loving Vincent was rotoscoped, meaning it was shot with real actors and the footage was animated over, which isn’t quite the same as being entirely painted by hand. There are many visual marvels, particularly when the camera is in motion toward the horizon — and Armand’s canonical hat and yellow coat give him an appropriate Dick Tracy vibe in this intentionally artificial world — but if not for the disclaimer, it would be easy to assume the work was done on a computer. In the end, Loving Vincent feels more impersonal than other recent (and arguably more truly handmade) animated films, such as The Girl Without Hands or especially My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. Still, it’s Van Gogh.

Rated PG-13.
Opens Friday at the Clay Theater.

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