As the opening text of Paul Cox's documentary informs us, Vincent Van Gogh was born in 1855 in Holland. Supported by brother Theo, he tried to be an evangelist, but failed, and took up painting. His career as an artist lasted a decade (he created 1,800 works during that time - he sold only one), and Theo passed away six months after Vincent did. Vincent was 37-years-old at the time of his death.
Those expecting a dry, overdramatized or just plain standard documentary about the artist from director Paul Cox's film will be very surprised at this original and interesting film. Instead of talking head interviews with historians that these kinds of documentaries often feature, Cox has Van Gogh's letters - most of which are addressed to brother Theo - being read throughout the running time, while on-screen are fields and villages where Van Gogh worked, along with other nearby areas.
The letters (passionately read by John Hurt) are fascinating and rich, pouring out the details of the artists life and thoughts, expressing joy and frustration at the world around him, and talking about both what inspires him and his habits when it came to working on his art. There are also stories read regarding events ranging from taking a pregnant woman in who had been kicked out by her husband and using her as a model, while trying to take care of her to Van Gogh dismaying about losing his teeth, because it made him look older. We also hear about his decent into illness, selling his work and more. Overall, we get to hear what the artist thought about the world and his own life, for better and worse.
While Paul Cox's approach to the documentary can drag slightly after a while, the mixture of narration and silent footage works better than one might think it would. Hurt was the perfect choice for narrator, and his energetic, emotional narration is a mostly engaging listen.
VIDEO: "Vincent" is presented by Docurama in the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The film was apparently done on a low budget and the condition of the print is mixed. Some scenes show noticable specks and marks on the print used, as well as some dirt. Others, however, appear crisp and rather clean.
Sharpness and detail are mixed, but the picture usually looked crisp. On a positive note, despite some wear, no pixelation, edge enhancement or other problems are spotted, and colors looked bright and nicely saturated.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack presents the narration clearly.
EXTRAS: The main supplement is "A Journey With Paul Cox", which is a 55-minute documentary that goes through the director's career before getting to "Vincent", and then offering a general discussion of his work. It's a bit dry, but overall, a pretty interesting bio. The DVD also offers a text bio for Cox and Van Gogh, as trailers and information about Docurama titles.
Final Thoughts: "Vincent" is an inspired and compelling look into the heart and mind of the legendary painter. The DVD offers satisfactory audio/video quality, and one very nice bonus feature. Recommended.