Boston Herald - Jay Carr

REVIEW: The Boston Sunday Globe - September 19, 1999 - THE MOVIE SECTION

SOME WHIMSICAL TIME TRAVEL WITH

VINCENT VAN GOGH

Review by Jay Carr STARRY NIGHT

Directed by: Paul Davids (USA)

 

Vincent van Gogh has enjoyed an unusually starry run on film. There's something to be said for the van Gogh bio films directed by Vincente Minnelli, Paul Cox, Maurice Pialat, and Robert Altman. Paul Davids's STARRY NIGHT is something a little different, however. It's a whimsical fantasy that imagines van Gogh returning to Los Angeles 100 years after his 1890 suicide, courtesy of a magical potato-based potion. He's amazed to learn that he has become one of the pillars of modern art and that his paintings, only one of which he sold in his own lifetime, now go for tens of millions.

As Abbott Alexander's van Gogh asks when he recovers consciousness in an LA hospital after being knocked unconscious by a sunflower-bedecked float in Pasadena's Rose Parade, "How much is that in guilders?" The van Gogh we get here is a visually plausible facsimile who's filled with sweet cluelessness. No artistic temperament, no depression or unruliness, just a disarming courtliness of manner and an altruistic determination to reclaim the paintings he says are still his (since he never sold them) and tap into their current market value to establish a home for needy artists.

Having laid the groundwork for a trenchant satire on the commodification of art, or a mischievous airing of the very question of how art can be owned, the film leaves these avenues virtually unexplored, settling for whimsy instead.

The closest it comes to rocking any boats comes when Vincent paints a hat on a self-portrait, saying he had intended to, but never got around to doing it before he died. This brings Sally Kirkland into the picture, as a touch LA art-theft investigator, and Lou Wagner, as an aging but still boyish-looking liability lawyer who gets an original charcoal portrait out of the generous Vincent and can't wait to figure out how to make more off him. STARRY NIGHT is easy to take, especially in its affection for van Gogh and his paintings.

Boulevard Magazine

Issue 101-1

Movie Madness By Eric Buchanan

What if painter Vincent van Gogh came back to life in contemporary Los Angeles? This is the premise behind "STARRY NIGHT", a new film now available on video from Universal Studios Home Video. A romantic fantasy, the film has been a favorite on the independent/arthouse circuit, winning the Audience Award as Best Feature Film at the 2000 Newport Beach Film Festival. The story line has Vincent (Abbott Alexander) returning to present day L.A., where he's shocked and bemused that his paintings are now worth millions. But given the fact that he only sold one painting before he committed suicide at age thirty seven, he figures he's owed something and sets about relieving his work from the wealthy collectors who now own them. Of course, no one in today's L.A. believes this man is really Vincent van Gogh, and his entreaties to help struggling young artists fall on deaf ears. Once he tries to "liberate" his paintings, he's accused of being a thief, which places van Gogh within the sights of art detective Murphy (Sally Kirkland, also the film's associate producer). Beyond all the other culture shock van Gogh faces, he's encountering something he never did before his death one hundred years earlier... romance, in the form of talented art student Kathy (Lisa Waltz). "STARRY NIGHT" was written and directed by Paul Davids, the writer and co-producer of the acclaimed Showtime Original "Roswell." The film was inspired by Paul's awareness of the phenomenal prices van Gogh's paintings were getting at auction during the 1990s. When Davids decided he wanted to direct his script, he and wife Hollace Davids produced it through their Yellow Hat Productions, in association with the UK's Felicity Films and Edinburgh's Digital Facilities. The Davids have captured the competing anguish and bliss van Gogh would feel if he were to become aware of his posthumous success. Their whimsical and touching film is a charming romance that explores art's paradoxical notions of aesthetic pleasure and materialistic greed, set against the backdrop of newly discovered love. And in a final touch to "Starry Night's many pleasures, Don McLean's haunting song "Starry, Starry Night" is used as the film's theme.

 

'Night' holds new day for van Gogh

By John Carlos Villani

THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

Friday, December 8, 2001

 

Although Starry Night certainly reflects director Paul Davids' small (well under $1 million) budget, it does possess a sweet and unassuming charm, containing many poignant scenes as, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh comes back to life and discovers that his wonderful paintings - images that art collectors -of his own time found uninteresting - have set today's standard for the art market's high end. As he wanders Los Angeles, van Gogh, played by Abbott Alexander - who bears a striking resemblance to the van Gogh depicted in the artist's self-portraits - stumbles and jumbles his Dutch accent, often sidetracking into a mild Irish brogue and sometimes just dropping all pretense and sounding like a San Diego surfer dude. The Dutch generally don't mince and flit their way around English sentence structures; they tend to barrel straight ahead and end up sounding like Germans who have sucked down a few too lagers. Sally Kirkland's turn as an LA police detective specializing in art-theft investigations is a. treat, as she seems actually capable of channeling van Gogh's artistic strangeness, and relating those traits to a contemporary mind-set. She is, in other words, a true believer in the power of art to change society. There's a mildly jarring scene involving gratuitous nudity as art students are seen working with a live model. Other than that, Starry Night comes off as the kind of film that will probably give an entire generation of starving artists the glimmer of hope they need to return to their studios and pursue their dreams of glory.

 

Irony of artist's fate inspired film

By John Carlos Villani

The Arizona Republic

Friday, December 8, 2000

Many starving artists have half reconciled themselves to the realization that they'll probably achieve recognition only after they're dead. While there's a tongue-in-cheek aspect to this line of reasoning, there's a thread of truth woven through it. After all, didn't this very fate apply to the world's most famous artist,:Vincent van Gogh, who died 110 years ago? Part-time Sedona resident and full-time Hollywood filmmaker Paul Davids is so tuned in to the van Gogh legend that he's directed a new film, Starry Night, examining several aspects of the artist's life story -' with an interesting twist. What if, Davids, postulates, van Gogh could be resurrected from his grave for a 100-day, whirl through contemporary society and an attempt to cash in on his post-mortem fame and fortune? Starry Night (whose title reflects lyrics in Vincent, Don McLean's Paean toVan Gogh) premieres at 7 tonight at Harkins, Camelview 5 in Scottsdale. Its week-long run is a fund-raiser for the New School for the Arts, a tuition free college preparatory institution that serves more than 220 Valley students of the visual and performing arts. Tickets for this evening's initial screening are $7 for the public (or $15 for school supporters) and can, be purchased at the Carnelview box office, or by calling (480) 947-3917. "I've always had an escalated passion for the Iandscape," David's says "and in 1988, just after van Gogh's Sunflowers. sold for $33 million to a Japanese collector, I thought how he would probably be turning over in his grave, if he knew what had become of his work. After all, this is an artist who, during his lifetime, only sold one of the 900 Paintings he had created during his career and whose sense of failure drove him to commit suicide." The film stars Abbott Alexander as van Gogh, Lisa Walz as an, aspiring Los Angeles artist who literally runs into van Gogh on a Los Angeles street comer and Sally Kirkland as an arts-theft investigator for the Police Department. "The challenge of this project was to get van Gogh identified by someone (Walzs character) as actually being van Gogh, rather than as some homeless person who just happens to have some knowledge about the artist and his work," Davids says. "To me, I thought that if Vincent really could come back and find some way to share in the wealth, his art has created, that he would want to use that wealth to somehow do good for the world's other starving artists."

In-Focus Magazine

This priceless film festival award-winning comedy is suitable for framing. A magic potion brings Vincent Van Gogh back to life. When the legendary artist, who only sold one painting in his own life, discovers the millions his paintings fetch, he schemes to steal them back from collectors.

Video Business

January 1, 2001

By Barbara Wexler

Paul Davids, the writer, director and producer of Universal's Starry Night, in which Vincent Van Gogh comes to life in modern-day Los Angeles and attempts to steal his paintings back from the collectors who have made him a legend, laughs at the rich, convoluted history of his debut feature. I wrote the script in '89 and it was optioned over eight years in three countries: "he told VB. "I think [these companies] all felt they needed a commitment from a big star to be VIncent. After eight years I said,'No! Forget the big star. Vincent Van Gogh is the star of this movie 'I figured out how to make it on a low budget and decided to shoot It on digital video. I think this is the first theatrical story film with a Hollywood look to it that was made digitally and blown up to 35mm. It gave me savings of between $350,000 and $425,000. We spent the money to make a really fine 35mm print. "The total budget was less than $1 million. After spending a year on the festival route, Starry Night with David Abbott as Van Gogh, was picked up by Universal for video distribution. The DVD edition (available Jan. 30) includes a commentary track by Davids, a 20-minute making-of featurette and extensive production notes. "The DVD is really interesting," said Davids."[The featurette] shows how we used guerilla filmmaking tactics to get the film made. Sometimes we just showed up on streets and we were done before anyone questioned our right to be there. We did that all over town." -- Barbara Wexler

 

Red Rock News

Sedona, Arizona

Friday, September 8, 2000

By Nancy Rodd Dunst

Resident premiers film at theater Paul Davids, a part-time Sedona resident and Hollywood Producer and director, premiers his latest film at Harkins Theaters this weekend. Davids will show his latest work, Starry Nights, at Harkins Theatres in Sedona Sept. 8 to 14 at 6:45 p.m. each night. The film brings Vincent Van Gogh back to life in the 20th century in Los Angeles. Having sold only one painting in his lifetime, Van Gogh is awestruck to learn that he is now considered one of the world's greatest artists. In spite of the fact that no one believes he is Van Gogh, he devises a plan to give the proceeds',from his masterworks to struggling young artists. However, the only way he can profit from his own work is to steal it back from the greedy and rich collectors who hoard it. The film stars Sally'Kirkland and Abbott Alexander and is being released by Universal Studios.

Paul Davids at Harkins Theatre showing of Starry Night
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