Gauguin represents for the film no less an ideal Romantic subject than the Polynesians represented for the painter himself: penniless, chronically ill, and living in self-imposed isolation—the very embodiment of the suffering artist.
Stream Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Content to be yet another great-man biopic, the movie would rather sanitize than probe.
What keeps the material from feeling too scattershot is the vitality of Cassel’s performance, which is full of life even when he’s not always in the best of health. He’s a much-needed charismatic center that almost manages to keep the entire enterprise together.
Cassel, one of France's singular talents, delivers an absorbing performance, committing to his role on both mental and physical levels.
Although the script is based on Gauguin’s own writing, the film presents him as such a gloomy Gus that he might have swapped souls with his onetime pal Van Gogh.
The film takes liberties with certain truths about Gauguin and his time in the tropics, yet despite — or maybe because of — its concoctions manages to produce a highly compelling central character.
It’s a perplexing, fascinating, maddening movie, not quite like any other film biography of a famous painter, most of which tend to be equal parts ho-hum and hokum.
The film has beautiful cinematography and occasional peaks of high drama, but lacks the kind of significant tempo necessary to sustain enough interest for nearly two hours to keep a viewer focused.
The film is beautiful in spots, and features a believably tormented performance by Vincent Cassel as Gauguin, but unfortunately it has only a hazy idea of what it wants to be about.
Cassel’s Gauguin may ultimately be a lightweight cinematic descendant of the monstrous European pioneers that Klaus Kinski played in Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, but he’s also both menacing and pitiable enough to make Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti riveting on a moment-to-moment basis.