Even a cursory dip into the history of French artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) will show how slim the film portrait is in “Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti,” directed by Eduard Deluc and inspired by the artist’s memoir “Noa Noa.” But as one might expect, the tribute to Gauguin is visually striking, both for the integration of his art and the locale depicted. The screenplay has been written by Deluc, Etienne Compar, Thomas Lilti and Sarah Kaminsky.
We get the historical setting when Gauguin is shown being fed up with the world in which he moves in Paris and struggles as an artist, including the relationship with his wife and his fatherly obligations. With his wife refusing to join him, off he goes to find new inspiration in the dramatically different, far-away Tahiti.
The artist is played by bearded Vincent Cassel, who imbues the character with mystique, intensity and longing to fulfill himself as an artist. A large part of the story involves the local marriage to his muse and model, the very young Tehura, played by Tuheï Adams, whom he takes for granted as his love object.
As the story develops, Tehura is shown to want more than her status and her attention, not unexpectedly, begins to wander elsewhere, fueling Gauguin’s jealousy.
Gauguin is also increasingly restless as life on Tahiti is also frustrating with respect to finding a market for his work. Ultimately he is no happier in this retreat than he has been in Paris.
The strongest aspect of the film is the attention to distinctive aspects of his art that made his work so different, colorful and important. One can view the film as an interesting surface contribution to the total picture of the man and his place in the art world, but far from any more complex addition to a biography. A Cohen Media release. Reviewed July 11, 2018.