Unaware of the unbelievable value his works will demand in years to come, Vincent struggles to survive financially in later life and is supported by art-dealer brother Theo, who becomes just as emotionally dependent.
Robert Altman's biopic of the tragic Van Gogh brothers disappointingly has the tone of a dramatised TV documentary. Everyone knows Van Gogh sold one painting in his life, went nuts, sliced off an ear lobe, offed himself and a century later his pictures were going for up to £50 million. What one might hope to see is a more imaginative exploration of his unique perception of reality.
Plonking Tim Roth and an easel down in a sunflower field, then cutting to his garret wall where five Van Goghs of sunflowers hang, just doesn't do it. Roth is in his element when it comes to drinking turpentine and wielding the infamous razor, but is given little assistance illuminating Vincent's work. Paul Rhys has the more bearable task, impressive as uptight but true Theo, the younger brother afflicted with syphilis and self-condemned to poverty by his support of Vincent.
Separately, their stories are told with some arresting composition and meticulous dressing, yet there is a curious lack of feel for period, place or time span. Together, their fraternity is not persuasive; neither is Vincent's enigmatically drawn relationship with Paul Gauguin or the inexplicably sudden descent into violent nuttiness. In nearly two and a half hours you expect more.
Beautifully presented but over-long and best appreciated if you already have an idea of van Gogh's life and work