This biographical film, based on the life of French artist Paul Gauguin (Donald Sutherland), follows the painter as he returns to Paris after a long stay in Tahiti and must confront his ...
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This biographical film, based on the life of French artist Paul Gauguin (Donald Sutherland), follows the painter as he returns to Paris after a long stay in Tahiti and must confront his wife, his children, and his former lover.Written by
Paul Gaugin returns from Tahiti to Paris in middle age, finds the going tough, watches the dissolve of his artists' cabal, meets Degas and Strindberg, has affairs with models, sells his most valuable possessions (three paintings by you know who), and hobbles off back to Tahiti. It's not a tragedy though. Gaugin winds up bitterly disappointed but hopeful, and not in the sense of a tacked-on Hollywood happy ending. He gets what he wanted, although it costs him a lot.
There's some fine acting on display. Donald Sutherland is a calm and deliberate presence. There is no artistic temperament shown, no shouting or sobbing. But his is one among many fine performances. Max von Sydow, with this hilarious fright wig, is a marvel to behold, and the tender relationship between Sutherland and the pretty young house girl, who aches for the artist's touch but who is treated like a daughter. Actually, she's splendid in the role, with a winning and quietly eager smile. She clips off a few pubes and gives them to Sutherland in a snuff box as a parting gift. There's a lot of female nudity in the movie but it's neither shocking nor salacious.
If you pay attention to such things you might notice that the lighting and photography are precisely done -- maybe not a reflection of the post-impressionists but surely the chiaroscuro owes something to Rembrandt. And there is a damned near perfect portrait of Sutherland as Gaugin, sitting alone in furry sunlight, in his dismal deserted apartment at the end.
It's a dramatic story but it takes its time. We never do see the madman van Gogh slicing off his hear, howling with pain, and running bloody through the streets. Sorry. Gaugin died in bed for undetermined reasons in the Marquesas Islands.
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