It was only recently we indulged in a feature that focused in on a male protagonist as he meandered his way around a tropical paradise, in Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ The Ornithologist – except where that title excelled was in its creative fervour, the unpredictability that derived from the fact our hero was getting himself into all sorts of bother. But as it was fiction it allowed for the filmmaker to take up that licence, whereas in Edouard Deluc’s Gauguin, he’s without such freedom, which results in a film that while engaging in parts, is just lacking that dramatic edge.
Vincent Cassel plays Paul Gauguin, the venerable post-impressionist French painter who travelled to Tahiti in Polynesia to discover himself having grown so tired in his current environment. Not long after arriving he falls sick – but is given a new lease of life when he meets Tehura (Tuhei Adams), who he swiftly marries. She inspires him to paint again, and he’s working day and night, with her a prevalent model in his work. It’s the authenticity in his environment he needed to reignite that passion for his craft, away from the tedium and artificiality of his life back home. But it’s not an easy ride, as while he falls in love with his wife and the land he inhabits, he has to deal with further health problems, and severe poverty.
It’s a flawed picture, certainly, and at times the slow-burning nature of the piece can be testing to the viewer, but it remains a fascinating period in Gauguin’s life to explore, and couple that with the remarkable lead performance by Cassel, and you’re left with a biopic that’s most definitely worth catching.
Gauguin is released on November 3rd.