Victoria, Van Gogh » Manila Bulletin News

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By Jullie Y. Daza

Jullie Y. Daza

As our taste for foreign cuisines grows with a smorgasbord of restaurants with exotic names and menus, so has our appetite for movies other than those from Hollywood. What a pleasing change.

The expansion of our curiosity about movies from elsewhere has not been as fast and furious as with food, but no matter. Food for the eyes will take a little more time to digest. However, a sceenplay as unexpectedly charming as “Victoria and Abdul,” produced by British Broadcasting, was a tempest in a teapot that shook and took Manila almost by storm, judging by the way friends urgently texted one another to catch it before it would vanish from the wide white screen.

Such is the fate of nonblockbusters that are consigned to a few screens with only a few days of screening time, on the assumption that such fare for the “upstairs” crowd is limited, allegedly, by the lack of marketing appeal. Happily for Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and her Indian co-star as Abdul, her mentor and best friend, the movie was so well received that an otherwise shortlived run was extended, you could say, by popular demand.

A month after Victoria’s victory, it was Vincent Van Gogh’s turn to attract a cult-like following of painters and art lovers to the movie inspired by his tragic life as the father of expressionism, a tortured soul whose source of inspiration, the sun and the colors it touched and turned to magic, was not enough to dispel the sense of despair that shadowed his creative life. Thanks to Solar Pictures, this co-production of Polish, English, Greek, Dutch, and talents from other nations was brought to us to be enjoyed as a work of art in and by itself. The viewer need not be a Van Gogh fan, but one familiar with at least his most famous works – Sunflowers, Starry Night, Night Cafe – would find them a bridge easy enough to cross and connect with the genius who sold only one of 800 paintings before he died and the world discovered his true value. (One version of Sunflowers was sold for 25 million euros to a Japanese in 1987.)

Loving Vincent “was first shot as a live-action film with real actors and then hand-painted, frame by frame in oil,” all 65,000 frames, by a team of 123 painters. To miss this movie is to deprive yourself of a gift of art.

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