Lust for Life (1956)


Biography | Drama


Vincente Minnelli




Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, James Donald, Pamela Brown, Everett Sloane, Henry Daniell, Madge Kennedy, Noel Purcell, Niall MacGinnis, Jill Bennett, Lionel Jeffries, Laurence Naismith, Eric Pohlmann, Jeanette Sterke, Toni Gerry


It tells the story of brilliant but tortured artistic genius Vincent van Gogh (Kirk Douglas). 


I've always loved van Gogh's work, still if it wasn't for Birgit, I would have never seen "Lust for Life", this brilliant, melodramatic yet effective biography about this very interesting artist.

The story, which focuses on the struggle of van Gogh to express himself, lingering on his deep affection for his brother Theo and his love-hate relationship with fellow artist Paul Gauguin, although it is not completely accurate, is beautifully told and very engaging.

That, however, isn't the reason I loved "Lust for Life" so much. The film was able not only to engage but to make you feel passionate about the passions of such a brilliant yet underappreciated artist as well as a very sensitive man.

There's another excellent aspect of the film, the colours. Every single scene shows a deep respect for van Gogh's palette and it's a wonderful, heartbreaking attempt to recreate the Dutch's view of the world.

At last but not least, there's Kirk Douglas in the lead role. Not only he has a resemblance to van Gogh, but he fully committed himself to the character, and it feels like watching the man himself, not an actor playing a role. Douglas delivers an astonishing performance as he shows a wide range of emotions, not only through his voice, face, and body language, but with silences as well. 

And it's also nice that he is supported by great actors among which Anthony Quinn stands out as Paul Gauguin, a another very interesting character that is unfortunately slightly underdeveloped.


  1. Thank you for the shout out and so happy I mentioned this film to you. I love your review because you describe the film perfectly. I thought Douglas really did look like the artist and I also wanted to know more about Gauguin although Quinn did win an Oscar for his role

    1. Thank you for telling me about this fantastic film.

  2. Lovely review! Lust for Life is such a wonderful biopic. It's hard to believe Kirk Douglas didn't win an Oscar for this.

    1. Crazy, right? But after all he lost to Yul Brynner, and that man was such an actor!

  3. The resemblance between Kirk and Van Gogh is eerily on point even it Douglas hadn't gone for the brush cut though that accentuates the similarity.

    While I thought the film at times was a bit drawn out and diffuse it is a visual wonder but then that was a specialty of Minnelli's.

    Douglas gives it everything he's got while for the most part avoiding going over the top, to be fair it had to be difficult at times reining that in what with Van Gogh's volcanic nature. I think he's been better elsewhere when a mixture of restraint and flashiness is called for, Ace in the Hole comes to mind, but he is very fine here.

    1. I haven't seen Ace in the Hole but I'll make sure to check it out.