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YNMS: Loving Vincent

Tim here. The official trailer for the upcoming animated feature Loving Vincent came out yesterday, just a couple of months after the long-delayed film picked up the Audience Award at this June's Annency International Animated Film Festival. We first heard about Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman's biopic of painter Vincent Van Gogh back in 2015, but the labor-intensive production missed a hoped-for 2016 release. Here, then, are the results of that labor.

It almost seems silly to run this through the Yes, No, Maybe So filter, because honestly, I've been a firm and immobile YES for a year and a half now. Some of the dialogue and cast choices push me in a bit of a Maybe So direction (when Chris O'Dowd speaks, all I can think is "hey, it's Chris O'Dowd as a voice actor!"), but I know that I'll be there Day 1, whenever Day 1 turns out to be here in the Midwest (it's September 22 in New York, September 29 in Los Angeles, and the rest of the country starts rolling out October 6).

So instead, let's spend a minute talking about why Loving Vincent has that very one-of-a-kind look. Billed as "the world's first oil painted feature film", which is slightly harder to quantify than the film's PR people might hope, Loving Vincent consists 65,000 frames painted by a team of 125 classically-trained painters on glass, with about two-thirds of those have been copied over live-action reference footage. It's not at all unlike the old rotoscoping technique used in things like the Betty Boop cartoons or Ralph Bakshi's features.

And sure enough, what you get from that looks for all the world like Vincent's own oil paintings (every scene is based on a specific painting from his career) given fluid life.

Animation purists can grouse - and to be sure, already are - over whether this "counts", of if it's just a special treatment of live-action material (but let's not forget, a substantial portion of the film is drawn "new", including, if I don't miss my guess, that aerial shot in trailer). But the technology surely matters less than the end results, and those look amazing: the tactile quality of thickly-applied oil paint, shifting and shimmering as it changes under the light, is like nothing I've ever seen in a movie, at least. Whether Loving Vincent is anything more than just a routine biopic remains to be seen, but there can be no doubt that at least it's going to be one of the most visually unique films of 2017.

But that's easy for me to say, I'm an animation junkie. What do you think? Is Loving Vincent a Yes, a No, or a Maybe So?

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Reader Comments (12)

Yes. I'm a yes.

August 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I am seeing this on Saturday. Can't wait.

August 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

WHOA. Yes.

August 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I am a YES as well.

Normally my intellectual response does not quite catch up with my emotional response. I tend to get dazzled by technical wizardry especially ones I have not seen before. Then I take a moment and remind myself that style and format are nothing if substance and content do not quite reach the same level. More often than not those technically brilliant filmic creations fall short in delivering a story, but other times they are on even keel. With that said, I was elated the entire time watching the Loving Vincent trailer with its subtle and obvious shifts in hues, moods, intensity and action. I am not sure if the story convinces at the end but I am already liking the style and that's already halfway good.

Plus those still paintings coming to life -- I can't resist that!

August 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

Yeah, this is EXACTLY the kind of animated film that should have committed to an all voice-actor cast, especially since most of the audience for this thing would probably prefer that kind of casting.

August 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Hi Tim, thanks for your article on Loving Vincent, and for your enthusiasm for the project. Hope it won't disappoint when you get to see the full film. Just one small correction. You wrote that the film is oil-painting on glass. We actually painted on canvas board (63cm by 49cm). We tested oil-on-glass, but it gives a wetter, thinner, more translucent look that took us away from the Van Gogh style. Unsurprisingly I guess, oil-paint on canvas (canvas textured boards, we couldn't have bounce of actual canvas on frame) gave us results closest to Vincent's paintings.

August 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHugh Welchman

That's a hell yes!!!

August 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStéphane

i'm kinda into it? so many pitfalls in portraying well-known artists / fetishizing the style of artists / misunderstanding & misstating context. i hope that the filmmakers can avoid these common traps - could be a great project.

August 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

definitely YES! i'm so here for animated experiments like this one

August 10, 2017 | Unregistered Commentereduardo

Has anyone here seen "The Girl Without Hands"? It's also an animated film with a very experimental style, and it's wonderful. See it if/when you can!

August 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

there's a japanese animated film called "In this corner of the world", in limited release in the US.
Traditional animations based from the manga of Fumiyo Kohno.

It was critically praised and even took the best animated price in last year Japanese Academy Awards (beating the another aclaimed Your Name)

I don't know if it could be a contender due to the subject matter. The Film is set in Hiroshima following the life of a girl, during and after the WWII.

The Trailer:

August 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterchatan

Saw this film and really enjoyed the animation technique---it's definitely old-school, but it's refreshing to see an animated film that's not CGI at all. It looks exactly like an oil painting come to life in brilliant shimmering colors that reflect every time someone moves onscreen---and it's worth seeing almost for that alone. That and the fact that it has engaging characters---Van Gogh himself, and the real people that actually knew him. I really liked the end credits where pictures of both the real-life people and the actors who voiced them were shown in pictures----that was also old-school, but sweet and effective.

February 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersqueesh

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