21 January, 2007

Lust for Life

I can't read my great book, The Yellow House..., without picturing Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn as van Gogh and Gauguin.

More's the shame, as I thought the 1956 movie, Lust for Life, (Vincente Minnelli, director) had some problems that I just can't get over.

This movie critic disagrees:

"Lust for Life is appropriately titled, for mere passion seems inadequate when describing this superb fictionalized biography (based on Irving Stone's popular novel) of Vincent Van Gogh. In a deservedly Oscar®- nominated performance, Kirk Douglas is physically and emotionally perfect...(He describes this movie as) this blessed project, which centers on Van Gogh's stormy friendship with fellow artist Gauguin (Oscar-winner Anthony Quinn). Minnelli used an outmoded color film process and innovative camera techniques to vividly recreate Van Gogh's paintings, and he filmed on the actual Dutch and French locations where Van Gogh's mastery flourished. The artist's lust for life also fed his madness, and this film deeply understands the fine line in between." --Jeff Shannon

Before I rant on, I will admit that I liked the movie just fine. Take Anthony Quinn as Paul Gauguin. Not bad casting, since Gauguin cast himself as a man's man, a Breton sailor-type, who had actually served as a French Naval officer. Quinn was a big man, too. Turns out that AQ was a painter and a sculptor, which is an eerie parallel to PG, who painted and sculpted.

Compare for yourself:

My problem is with Kirk Douglas being cast as VVG. Come on! Kirk Douglas is also a man's man, big and virile, even in his current and elderly condition of being crippled by a stroke. The handsome Kirk Douglas is nothing like the diminutive, stinky and ugly wretch of a man, Vincent van Gogh.

You decide:

Similarities between Kirk and Vincent: KD born in Amsterdam, NY. VVG born in Holland. Both have sorta reddish hair. That's all I've got!

Note: I don't really believe the photo above is van Gogh, but it's close enough for the fun we're having here.


Philip said...

I understand John Wayne tried to persuade Kirk Douglas not to take the part because he thought the whole thing was rather sissy for a 'he man' image. I don't believe in this macho stereo typing and if, it is true, I think it is a rather sad reflection of John Wayne. Were they any more he man than Van Gogh - I don't think so - and if they were, so what?

I haven't see it in a (very)long time but I seem to remember it was quite a good movie.

Delilah said...

Good Morning Casy,

I have ordered The Yellow House, thank you for the link. One of my goals for 2007 is to read one art related/business of art book a month and also an additional personal book a month. So I'll let you know what I think when I read it in Feb.

I think they picked Kirk for the part because he has a passion when he acts.Art is all about passion.


Delilah said...


My post are not showing.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks for reading! Great to have you commenting; you are out of bed three hours before me in the mid west (unless you're at a show in Florida, in which case you're up four hours before me - or something like that.) I moderate my posts over morning coffee, before the kids get up.
Got my "no" from Cherry Creek, yesterday. It's a 1 in 14 chance, but it's still bad news. On the other hand, I now have better digital images for the Zapplications.
Look at my blog every weekend, and I will (try) to post a Colorist American Landscape then.
Kirk Douglas played the part with passion. I can still see him raging and yelling: "But, Paul!" It was a good performance, but bad physical casting.
Philip, it was VVG who got his clock cleaned by PG in a barroom fight; one, two and you're out the door!
I think that settles who was the bigger man. On the other hand, I much prefer, as history has done, the art of VVG (the magnificent!)
It's interesting to read how PG's paintings are being sold and critically acclaimed in Paris during the nine weeks in Arles that our two artist heroes occupied the yellow house. Meanwhile, VVG is a big zero for sales.
VVG produced art of the highest quality at such a rapid rate, that PG had to paint over thirty years to equal the output of VVG's roughly 10 year career.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen "Lust for life" thanks for writing about it! In my oppinion NOBODY can be VVG. Except VVG.... I don't know how good the actor chosen to do the role of him was because I have not seen it. To play VVG though is a HUGE task. I'll watch it....please Casey let me know about other movies that tell the liftstories of artists. My concentration level isn't wonderful so a movie helps with that. Although I try to read a few pages of a book every few nights. The only other movie that I know of is POLLOCK. I own that one. :) Anyhoo...thanks again Casey!

Casey Klahn said...

I will have to try to see Pollock, since I missed it. It seems to get a lot of comments from artists in the blog-o-shere.

Casey Klahn said...

By the way, if you haven't found my Jackson Pollock link, please do so. It's called, "Make Your Own Action Painting", and it is a blast!

Philip said...

What do you mean by 'bigger man'?

Casey Klahn said...

My yellow house book describes Gauguin as 5 feet, 4 inches tall. That is small, even by Nineteenth Century standards. But, even though I don't recall reading VVG's height, he is definitely described as diminutive in stature, and sickly in affect.
PG is described as broad of shoulder and vital in constitution. Anthony Quinn was unmistakably that way, and so is Kirk Douglas. He recently wrote an interesting public letter that impressed me for it's candor. (Too bad I can't recall what it said!)
I think, my good friend, that we shall go around and around about this physical comparison between the two great artists van Gogh and Gauguin. It is trivial, for the most part. But so are movies, in my opinion! That's some of the irony I guess I'm trying to bring out.
Even though the author, Gayford, takes great pains in comparing the two men in many ways, not the least of which is artistically, I find it a little tedious. I prefer both fine artists, but I guess VVG is more my favorite.
It is amazing to see the continuity of their work, but I suppose that I have never studied Gauguin much before.
Some of the theses that Gayford is developing are quite interesting. He is pointing out that PG was more successful in his day than VVG, older than VVG, more experienced in fine art and better "placed" publically. He was more thorough and slower to develop a painting.
The upshot is to show the immense superiority that posterity has brought to Vincent's work, in spite of his being the "smaller man".

jafabrit said...

Interesting post and enjoyed the comments too. You have inspired me to check out the book.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Jafabrit. I will try to continue my posts on the yellow housemates! AKA: "The Odd Couple" of art.

Anonymous said...

I would like to alert everyone to an incredible film I saw called The Eyes of Van Gogh directed by Alexander Barnett.

You can find details at www.theeyesofvangogh.com or look for the title at www. IMDb.com, which is a film database.

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism