The Films of Maurice Pialat: Van Gogh

By Lupita Peimbert (Cinema).

A fictionalized biography about Vincent van Gogh’s last two months before his death. Director and writer Maurice Pialat shows different aspects of the artist’s life, providing a beautiful, unconcerned, nonchalant look into life in 1890’s rural France, in a small town not far from Paris.


Beyond the image that most of the world knows –one of a troubled artist affected by bouts of mental illness, the painter is presented a little more broadly, although his personality remains full of complexities. Van Gogh was an artist who didn’t think much of himself or his work; he had an addiction to alcohol and other toxic substances, in addition to mental health issues, but Pialat shows a Van Gogh who welcomed nights of revelry, enjoyed sex and loved women. The film also depicts a highly sensitive man; one able to connect with others despite his outbursts of anger, sadness, and despair. Van Gogh’s strong emotions seemed to show up especially during his interactions with his brother Theo van Gogh, an art dealer living in Paris.


Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands and lived the last four years of his life in France, creating a vast number of pieces of art, most of them while living in the South of France. His appreciation for the shades of sunlight, beautiful landscapes, and people in that region transformed into amazing post-impressionism artwork. But it wasn’t until after his death that his name became famous, and his paintings extremely well regarded -some of them becoming masterpieces.


Paliat’s 2-hour-long realist narrative wins over the audience’s impatience towards long stories. It is so well done that it captures your full attention. The camera moves simply, no emphasis whatsoever as if it were an open window from which the spectator gets to see only what the frame allows, or as if one was sitting in a rocking chair outside the house, looking how life and people go by to left, to the right, and in front. The landscapes are beautiful, and so the sounds of nature; they transport you to the times and places the story tells. Jacques Dutronc portrays Van Gogh in such a credible way, allowing you to capture van Gogh’s personality, even if fictionalized; Alexandra London as Marguerite, Bernard Le Conde as Theo, Gerard Sety as Dr. Gauchet, and so the rest of the cast were coherent with their corresponding characters.


Certainly lovely, and something one can appreciate about filmmaker Maurice Pialat is the way he details daily life traditions, and the ways in which people used to gather: The managing of a hostel, the way people used to drink and engage in conversations after dinner, the insolence of teenagers, and the peculiar ways of dancing and celebrating in a brothel’s night. All done without much fuss or fancy, unapologetically about the lack of unintentional drama, and yet, real and dramatic when needed.

Pialat is considered one of the best French filmmakers of his time, and one who influenced the current generations. He passed away twelve years ago on January 11, 2003.  “Van Gogh” was released in 1991.


The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, as it opens in a new, state of the art site on January 31, is presenting a series of films by Maurice Pialat, “Van Gogh,” among them, starting on February 5 until  March 3, 2016. The series is called “Love Exists: The Films of Maurice Pialat.”

2155 Center Street, Berkeley
Opens January 31, 2016 – See more at:

Lupita Peimbert publishes | Formerly a television news reporter, currently she blogs and uses social media in English and Spanish to promote art, culture and travel.

12 thoughts

  1. A movie on Van Gogh? I didn’t even know! My god where do I live! I am so going to watch i, your review was awesome! I love art. My sister is also a painter and it’s wonderful to see your art blog! I am going to explore more of your blog and tell my sister about you too! thanks for sharing 😀


      1. I live in a little town;
        Which is called
        I live in a subcontinent;
        Which is called
        The Central African Subcontinent.
        I live in a continent;
        Which is called Africa;
        In a country called Cameroon;
        Best known for
        It’s football.


  2. Vincent Van gogh is my favorite artist ever! The only painting I have in my apartment is ‘Almond Tree’ painted by him 🙂 Adding this to my favorite posts of the week!

    Liked by 1 person

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