CinemaLit: Lust for Life (1956) | Mechanics' Institute

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CinemaLit: Lust for Life (1956)
CinemaLit November 2023: – Full Color Dramas

November 17 – Lust for Life (1956), 122 minutes, directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn.

Kirk Douglas brings his muscular acting style to full force in this biopic of Vincent van Gogh. Based on Irving Stone's 1934 biographical novel, Lust for Life explores the Dutchman's art while reenacting key points in his tortured life. Director Vincente Minnelli had an obvious affinity for the subject, while the film is awash in van Gogh's paintings reproduced in splendid CinemaScope and MetroColor, further enhanced with a sweeping Miklós Rózsa score. As fellow artist Paul Gauguin, Anthony Quinn delivers a performance as robust as Douglas's, and was honored with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. 

November 2023: CinemaLit – Full Color Dramas

This month at CinemaLit we feature a pair of films made when Hollywood was on edge. In the 1950s, television was threatening the theatrical film business, and producers were ready to take chances. New big screen technologies were introduced to lure audiences. Widescreen and saturated color began as novelties, but soon became standard. Our films this month aren't the era's biggest new technology spectacles (that would be The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur), but they did exploit the beauties of the widescreen format. Both effectively use a large canvas to tell their intimate stories of complex human relations. Come enjoy the still stirring Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) and Lust for Life (1956).

Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies.

I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”

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