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"Loving Vincent," 65,000 Painted Frames, Lost To Coco

Monday 12 March 2018 at 5:27 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for March 8, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

The 90th Academy Awards came and went this week without a great deal of excitement one way or the other. Some people watch the Oscars mainly to view the fashionable gowns worn by the famous stars; some watch the Awards in expectation of bold political statements coming out of the mouths of the rich and famous; and some actually watch Oscar Night because they are avid movie fans and are fired up about their favorite competitors. I can’t identify with any of those reasons, so I never watch this annual extravaganza.

            So why do I mention it? Although I didn’t watch, I was keenly interested in who would win the Animated Feature Award, but waited to find out until after it was all over, and the media announced the winners.

            The world’s first fully painted feature film was competing in this category, and because it was about my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gogh, and because the excerpts I saw were so beautiful, I was hopefully excited about the outcome. “Loving Vincent” tells the story of Vincent’s life and death and the great mystery surrounding his death. The incredible film, told through animated versions of his paintings, was created by a team of 115 artists who painted 65,000 frames of oil paintings on canvas, using Van Gogh’s painting techniques. The film was directed by Dorota Kobiela of Poland and Hugh Welchman of the United Kingdom.           

            I was disappointed because the Oscar went to Coco, an animated Pixar film, about a Mexican boy dreaming of becoming a musician. I don’t deny the high quality of the Pixar film, and, by all accounts, it was good, but I really wanted Vincent to win. It seems kind of unfair to me to put a Pixar animated film together with an oil-paintings animated movie in competition with each other.

            Vincent was the first time ever for painting-generated animation; Pixar animation was first created in 1995 with “Toy Story.” Pixar animation, computer generated on Pixar software, takes four to five years to complete. As I mentioned at the beginning of this column, ‘Vincent” took the work of 115 artists, painting 65,000 oil paintings. Both took a lot of time and effort.

            Most people, whether they like art or not, generally like the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, the most famous of the French Impressionists’ painters, and, in my opinion, the best. The reason for Vincent’s (he always signed his paintings “Vincent”) enormous popularity, above and beyond that of other painters, is the excitement, the passion, the wonderment, the use of incomparable colors and their combinations, and even the “spirituality” one sees in his paintings. This admiration of Van Gogh is above and beyond the fact that his perspective is a little shaky, with people painted in the background who are almost as large as the ones in the foreground, and above and beyond the fact that many of the people in his non-portrait paintings have featureless faces.

            Unlike landscapes of other Impressionists painters, Vincent’s are peopled with human beings, though often faceless. There is always someone plowing, or planting, or walking, etc., -- the landscape is rarely just a bare landscape. Yet even though with faces without features, these people seem so alive, so real, and even if the drawing isn’t perfect. It’s that passion, that spirituality, that love of people and of life that comes through the vivid colors and the swirls of paint and wild slashes on the canvas, that jump out at you!

            Although Van Gogh had an illness, which at times caused mental/emotional problems, he was not crazy, and even though he once cut off his own ear in a fit of anger, no one believes any more that he committed suicide (as old stories about his life suggested). His death was surrounded in mystery, and thus the trigger point of the film, “Loving Vincent,” which makes it seem like a great mystery novel. None of that is important though when you see some of the most incredible art work ever, animated in incredible color, in this film. Sorry it didn’t win.

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Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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