Van Gogh: Brush With Genius

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Art lovers who lack the means to visit such cities as New York, Paris or Amsterdam surely will be thrilled by the prospect of seeing "Van Gogh: Brush With Genius."

This Imax Theatre documentary, from MacGillivray Freeman Films, provides the visceral thrill of seeing numerous masterworks by the painter in visually dazzling fashion, even if its narrative style leaves something to be desired. The film is scheduled for release in Imax theaters in early 2009.

Like so many giant screen films, "Van Gogh" feels the need to enhance its visuals with a prosaic story line. In this case, it takes the form of concentrating on figures like Peter Knapp, who conceived the idea for the film, and a fictional museum researcher (played by French actress Helen Seuzaret) delving into Van Gogh's numerous letters.

More problematically, Marie Sellier's screenplay includes numerous observations by "Van Gogh" himself, who comments on the proceedings in, considering the mental illness that eventually led his suicide, disarmingly chipper fashion.

But these silly conceits don't detract from the film's raison d'etre, which is to showcase the artist's magnificent paintings in a manner that will prove visually revelatory even for those fortunate enough to have seen many of them in person. The images of these masterworks, which are frequently accompanied by beautiful shots of the actual landscapes in such places as Arles and Saint-Remy that inspired them, are so stunning that it's a wonder that no one thought to showcase them in this cinematic manner before now.

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