There’s a conflict inside me on Vincente Minnelli’s “Lust for Life.” This is a very passionate, raw portrayal of Vincent van Gogh, displaying his entire life’s work, his flaws, desires and personal mistakes for the world to see, yet in the reminding us the impact van Gogh left on the world. And yet, like van Gogh himself, it honestly feels like that same passion and energy has no direction or reason to stick with the audience, like we’re just watching a documentary about Vincent Van Gogh and not a dramatic reenactment of his life.
So on the one hand, there’s a lot of great work being put into this film, especially from Kirk Douglas and his nuance performance that shows how conflicted and worried van Gogh can be, but also his drive to share the way he sees the world with everyone else, as well as Vincente Minnelli’s love of von Gogh’s paintings and how they’re scattered throughout the entire picture.
But, on the other hand, none of it is given any meaning. As great as Douglas’ performance was, I didn’t find any reason to care about his struggles or problems because of how standoffish and rude he was, making him a rather unlikable character that does little to redeem himself. It would be like watching someone insult his closest friends just to find out that he’s great at playing the piano – he might be an amazing musician, but that isn’t enough to make a worthwhile main character, let alone an entire movie.
“Lust for Life” certainly isn’t a terrible movie. It is visually pleasing, especially at capturing what brought about Vincent van Gogh’s inspirations for painting, and Kirk Douglas does a masterful job at walking the tight rope between crazy and passionate that he’s always been stunning at. It’s just that the film never really draws you in and makes you care about van Gogh’s character and his struggles, leaving most of this painting as a blank slate.
Final Grade: C-