For our readers who were not born prior to 1956, and we suspect there may be a fair few of you, we’d like to recommend what we consider basic viewing for any Van Gogh fan and general supporter of the cinematic arts: Lust for Life, available on the near obsolete [VHS] format (maybe there’s a DVD version floating around somewhere). The movie is a Van Gogh biopic starring Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch), who, besides generally being a grossly talented actor, is also regarded as the world’s oldest living celebrity blogger at age 95, reaching his fans, stalkers and enemies via his myspace account. Like Van Gogh, he displays a lust for life not commonly found.

Why is this biopic still better than many that have come after it, even with technical innovations? Quite simply, Douglas plus beard = scary resemblance to Van Gogh, as shown in his own self portraits. That’s always important. Secondly, Douglas has seemingly read and absorbed every page of Irving Stone’s biographical novel about Vincent Van Gogh, on which the movie is based. He’s overly sensitive. He’s rejected. And he’s depressed. All these emotions are present in the very first scene when you meet Douglas/Van Gogh: the artist has just been rejected as an evangelical preacher, even after being sent to minister to the most simple of men, coal miners. His inadequacies are not lost on him. The same pattern is replicated in personal relationships – he is far too intense for women, and with men, he is far too quarrelsome; only his older brother, the ever patient and loving Theo, is able to deal with him. The movie moves steadfastly on to when he discovers his talent and to his death, which in some ways came later than one would expect. The saddest thing, of course, was that one gets the feeling Van Gogh was never really sure what a sublime talent he was - after all, he only sold one painting during his lifetime.

Another fascinating news item concerns just how Van Gogh died. For years it has been considered a suicide, but a new book suggests it was an accident involving two boys and a malfunctioning pistol. The book is titled Van Gogh: The Life and was released today (Oct 17) in England. The work is the result of 10 years of research by authors Gregory Smith and Steven Naifeh, who together won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for their biography on Jackson Pollock. The story of Van Gogh’s death is notorious in its lack of details, but largely everyone believed that he shot himself in the chest somewhere outside of Paris. But the authors claim this simply can’t be true. For example, how could Van Gogh have shot himself and then walked more than a mile over difficult terrain? Also, where did he get the gun, and why was the weapon never found, if it was a suicide? We hate to say it, but we don’t have the answers. We’re waiting for the book.