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Film Review: Gauguin

Voyage to Tahiti

by Edouard DelucCohen Media Group
reviewed by Bilge Ebiri
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Film poster

YOU ARE A SAVAGE, my dear Gauguin. Like the rest of us. But you . . . you’ve chosen to remember that.” Someone in a dark, crowded Paris bar says this to the painter Paul Gauguin (a wonderfully charismatic Vincent Cassel) before he departs for French Polynesia. This fanciful biopic about the legendary artist plays with the notion of what constitutes civilization and the true self. “Fanciful” because the film does take some liberties with the historical record, papering over some of the elements in Gauguin’s biography—including a few of his sexual proclivities—that may be received less enthusiastically by modern audiences.

That might be because Gauguin in the film is in search of something more abstract. As might be expected, the film is filled with great vistas—the contrast between the smoky, dank clutter of France and the colorful openness of Polynesia is striking. As Gauguin discovers a new life in this remote corner of the world— one in which he finds creative rejuvenation, a healthier way of living, and genuine love and partnership—the film becomes an inquiry into the very nature of society. Is Gauguin really in touch with his “savage” side? Or is he ultimately a man in search of the true meaning of what it means to live a civilized life? This biopic might be uneven, but it’s thought-provoking nonetheless. —BE

Courtesy Cohen Media Group


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