Film & Movie / Film & Movie / Reviews / Television / TV

Review: The Yellow House

The Sydney Morning Herald – Entertainment
Robin Oliver
16 March 2008

The wonderful first-run imagery and acting of The Yellow House provides the best excuse for getting digital TV.

John Simm as Vincent Van Gogh in The Yellow House.

John Simm as Vincent Van Gogh in The Yellow House.

It has been easy to regard ABC2 as Aunty’s somewhat precocious niece. Wall-to-wall pop concerts and repeats, so if – darn it! – you miss something as culturally invigorating as Spicks And Specks, there is the opportunity to catch up later. What could be better?

Now, the wonderful first-run imagery and acting of The Yellow House provides the best excuse for getting digital TV. Simple if you have pay TV but otherwise you may have to elbow your way past store-wide temptations of LCD and plasma screens (wouldn’t The Yellow House look grand on one of those?) and acquire a digital set-top box.

Director Chris Durlacher uses locations in Arles to film Martin Gayford’s story of Vincent van Gogh’s sojourn in southern France. The original Yellow House fell victim to Allied bombs but, courtesy of Van Gogh’s extraordinary painting, its frontage fills the screen. Vincent has already established his studio there when, in 1888, fellow artist Paul Gauguin comes to stay.

The two men fight tooth and claw and a tempestuous nine-week visit ends when, as madness overtakes him, van Gogh famously chops off his ear. We are spared that, though there are buckets of blood. John Simm (the time-warped Inspector Sam Tyler in Life On Mars) excels as van Gogh and the Irish actor John Lynch is an imposing match as Gauguin. Their fierce relationship is grand to see.

Gauguin scornfully plucks Vincent’s latest painting from an untidy corner in the tiny studio and proclaims: “The eye of posterity is not on this one, mon frere.” The picture is the renowned Room At Arles. It may never have happened but Durlacher makes it a thrilling moment. The nine-week partnership produced some 40 acknowledged masterpieces, now worth upwards of $1.5 billion. The impoverished Vincent let his go for a pittance.

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