Annecy has been “Loving Vincent”. The animated Van Gogh biopic's world premiere on Tuesday at France's Annecy Festival of the independent animated feature received a 10-minute-plus standing ovation which lasted throughout the final credit sequence and beyond.
Billed as the first-ever fully-painted feature film, and screened at the Festival's biggest auditorium, the feature-length debut of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman received a heartfelt reception from most of its first public audience which spilt over onto social media. Among Twitter comments were: “We applaud innovative approaches to reaching Vincent”; “Vincent Van Gogh has sprung to life in animation”; “It got me, and I did cry.” Prizes or none, the film looks set to become one of the most talked-about of new features this year at Annecy.
“Loving Vincent” is directed by Kobiela and co-directed by producer Hugh Welchman, producer of the Oscar-winning short “Peter & the Wolf”. According to Welchman, the $5.5 million-budgeted “Loving Vincent” will be distributed in about 135 countries.
A fictionalised, mystery-driven biopic, “Loving Vincent” has a vibrant palette created by stop-motion oil paint brush strokes painted on canvas after the directors rotoscoped the performance of actors.
The story plumbs the last days and still-not-completely-clarified death of the modern painting master. According to Welchman, “after reading many books and more than 800 letters written by the artist, we decided to create a plot which includes imaginary characters.”
A deeply-felt tribute, the production of “Vincent” is unlikely to become common industry practice. Shots were painted over on canvas boards frame-by-frame. “For every shot in the film, we ended up with one canvas, apart from the very long shots like the opening shot, where we had three canvases. There were about 1,000 shots in the film, so we have about a thousand paintings,” said Welchman. “We have about 500 design paintings so 1,500 paintings in our studio. There are 65,000 frames. We painted at mainly 12 frames-per-second.” The film required the cooperation of more than a hundred painters.
Vincent Van Gogh is already one of the world's two-or-three most popular modern painters, a near-guarantee of crowds at any major museum exhibition. With this film, his popularity is likely to grow. “Loving Vincent” will see its first commercial release in France on October 11 via La Belle Company.