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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Painting for the Future
by Betty Jo Tucker

Director Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate offers viewers a mesmerizing exploration of painter Vincent Van Gogh’s last days. Oscar nominee Schnabel (The Diving Bell & the Butterfly), also a painter, wisely chose Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) for the lead role here. Because of Dafoe’s revelatory performance and Benoit Delhomme's (The Proposition) excellent cinematography, we seem to see things through Vincent’s eyes. And we feel empathy for this lonely, talented artist who has difficulty selling his beautiful paintings in Paris, even though his caring and supportive brother Theo (Rupert Friend/Young Victoria) sells paintings for a living.

We hope things perk up for Vincent when he meets fellow painter Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac/Life Itself), who advises him to go South and “paint bright paintings painted in sunlight.” Following Gauguin’s advice, Vincent moves to Arles in the South of France. Although reveling in the experience of being surrounded by so much Nature and sunlight, Vincent gets in trouble for trying to pose a lovely girl (Lolita Chammah/Barrage) he sees on the road and also for reacting violently to some unruly school children.

When Gauguin leaves after a visit to Arles, Vincent mutilates himself and ends up in an asylum. But before that, we get to watch several scenes of Vincent painting -- and it’s like we are right there with him! One of the film’s highlights shows Gauguin and Vincent painting Madame Ginoux (Emmanuelle Seigner/Stalin’s Couch) in the same sitting. Seeing their different styles -- plus hearing the two men argue about what painting should be -- added to my enjoyment of this fine film.   

So, of course, I believe Dafoe's memorable portrayal of  Vincent Van Gogh deserves a poem.  

It’s time to praise Willem Dafoe

for his work as Vincent Van Gogh.

Watching At Eternity’s Gate,

we see painting as Vincent’s fate.


Lush with color and shapes unique,

such artistry for one to seek!

His brother and Gauguin knew this,

while others the big prize did miss.


So painting for eternity

became Vincent’s true destiny.

His sunflowers and starry skies

now please most everybody’s eyes.


A film like this may move too slow.

And yet for me it seems to glow.

Scenes touch something down deep inside,

seeing how Vincent lived and died.


I put my mind and soul into my work and have lost my mind in the process. --- Vincent Van Gogh

I feel God is nature and nature is beauty. --- Vincent Van Gogh

(Released by CBS Films and rated “PG-13” for thematic content.)

For more information about At Eternity’s Gate, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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