Van Gogh was murdered claims new film at Venice

A visitor takes a photo of a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh at the Winter Masterpieces exhibition Van Gogh and the Seasons in Melbourne on April 27, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 04 September 2018
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Van Gogh was murdered claims new film at Venice

  • At Eternity’s Gate, starring Willem Dafoe as the tortured genius, was premiered Monday at the Venice film festival
  • Director Oscar Schnabel said the film was not meant to be a factual biopic, because ‘all history is a lie’

VENICE: A new film about the artist Vincent Van Gogh claims that he was murdered rather than having shot himself.
“At Eternity’s Gate” starring Willem Dafoe as the tortured genius, was premiered Monday at the Venice film festival.
In it the painter is shot after a struggle with local youths near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris, where the artist spent his final months in 1890.
He died 36 hours later after staggering back to the local inn in the dark.
While most historians agree that Van Gogh killed himself, renowned painter and Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel fuels a theory that he was killed in the film.
Legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere — who co-wrote the script with Schnabel — said there “is absolutely no proof he killed himself. Do I believe that Van Gogh killed himself? Absolutely not!”
“He came back to the auberge with a bullet in his stomach and nobody ever found the gun or his painting materials,” Carriere added.
“What we have been fighting against is the dark romantic legend of Van Gogh. In the last period of his life Van Gogh was working constantly. Every day he made a new work,” he said.
His final weeks, when he painted the “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” — which set a world record when it sold for $82.5 million (€77 million) in 1990 — were “not at all sad,” the writer argued.
Schnabel insisted that a man who had painted 75 canvasses in his 80 days at Auvers-sur-Oise was unlikely to be suicidal.
The theory that Van Gogh did not commit suicide was first raised in a 2011 biography of the painter by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.
Schnabel said neither the gun nor “the painting material he had that day were ever found. It is strange to bury your shit if you are committing suicide.”
“At Eternity’s Gate” is also likely to open a new front in the row over Van Gogh’s “lost” sketchbook, which purportedly resurfaced after 126 years in 2016 and was authenticated by two eminent art historians last year.
Veteran British expert Ronald Pickvance claimed the book was “the most revolutionary discovery in the history of Van Gogh” studies.
But the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam hotly disputes its provenance and dismissed the drawings as fakes.
The book, originally a ledger from the Cafe de la Gare in Arles where Van Gogh stayed at various times between 1888 and 1890, features prominently in the film.
Schnabel and his team examined the drawings for themselves with the director pressing Dafoe’s hand down into them, he said, to “force a transmission — a connection between me and Van Gogh.”
It clearly worked, with Defoe, who looks uncannily like the Van Gogh the film, already tipped for the best actor prize at Venice.
The actor said in shooting the film in the fields around Arles where the artist painted and in the asylum at Saint-Remy where he was held, “we flirted with Van Gogh’s ghost.”
Schnabel said the film was not meant to be a factual biopic, because “all history is a lie.”
“I don’t care if the notebook is real or not real, if he killed himself or didn’t kill himself. It’s irrelevant. But in the film, it is nice to know there is another set of possibilities ...”
The film was also a chance for “me to say things about painting... and it was a lot of fun to speak through Von Gogh.”
The ebullient New Yorker also wanted to correct the “bad wrap” that Van Gogh’s friend Paul Gauguin gets from history.
Van Gogh may have cut off his ear when the painter announced he was leaving him to return to Paris, but “Gauguin really cared about him,” Schnabel said.
“He is portrayed usually as an arsehole. Anthony Quinn (in the 1957 film “Lust for Life”) played him like that, but he wasn’t.”


Musical truth: Palestinian singer Maysa Daw blends the personal with the political

Updated 18 September 2018
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Musical truth: Palestinian singer Maysa Daw blends the personal with the political

  • Maysa Daw is a young Palestinian singer
  • A guitar-driven singer-songwriter, Daw is a bundle of indie energy

DUBAI: Maysa Daw is a hard person to pin down. The young Palestinian singer has been busy dashing from gig to gig, completing an album and preparing to participate in a musical collaboration called the Basel-Ramallah Project, which is due to take place in Switzerland on Oct. 6. When we meet, she is in Chicago, about to go on stage at Palipalooza.

“We’ve been working on our solo show and I’m trying to write a few new songs but time isn’t exactly on my side at the moment,” she said with a laugh. “But writing always comes in-between things, you know. I’m always having these new ideas and I write them down, or new melodies and I write them down. At some point I’ll just gather them together and a lot of things will come from there.”

A guitar-driven singer-songwriter, Daw is a bundle of indie energy. Her live performances are raw and honest, her music a primarily personal reaction to the world around her. As a Palestinian living inside the Green Line, this can sometimes mean a world of conflict and complication.

“I always write about what I’m experiencing, what I’m feeling, or the anger that I’m feeling,” said Daw, whose debut album “Between City Walls” was written while she was living in Jaffa.



“It was a very different world for me. I grew up in Haifa, which is a lot more chill, a lot more relaxed, and suddenly I move to Jaffa and study in Tel Aviv, and everything was so intense. Everything was so new. It produced a lot of stuff. Love songs, break-up songs — political songs, too.

“There’s also one of my favorite songs, “Crazy.” I was so frustrated when I started writing this song. I was thinking of so many things at the time and I just wrote everything down. It’s exactly the way I was feeling, the things that I was asking myself. It talks about religion, it talks about death, it talks about politics — it talks about a lot of things.”

“Between City Walls,” which was released in June last year, may be indie in its sensibilities but its eight songs embrace a variety of sounds, not all of which are musical. Alongside samples of classical Arabic songs and Spanish guitar there are bursts of radio static and live voice recordings of people in the West Bank. As such, reproducing the album on stage, with drummer Issa Khoury and bassist Shadi Awidat, has not been easy.

“We’ve been trying to put material for a five-piece band into a three-piece band,” said Daw. “As such, we’ve been using more electronics and it’s been a very interesting challenge for us. But it’s got us to a place that I’m definitely very happy with.”

Daw is very much a product of Haifa. Born into an artistic family — her father is the actor Salim Dau — she immersed herself in the city’s independent Arabic-music scene, performing at venues such as Kabareet and collaborating with Ministry of Dub-Key, a Galilean group that fuses the sounds of hip-hop and dancehall with traditional Palestinian dabke.

She also recently finished recording an album with Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, who she joined about five years ago. Due to be released early next year, the as-yet-untitled album is her first full-length collaboration with the group. Prior to this, Daw and DAM recorded two tracks together, including the feminism-infused “Who You Are.”

Although Daw’s work gravitates toward the personal, much of it also can be viewed as intrinsically political. The song “Come with Me,” for example, is about two lovers kept apart by the separation wall, while “Radio” features the voices of refugees living in the West Bank. In snippets of their conversations you can hear them talking about the wall, the effects it has on their lives and their desire to tear it down.

“I do talk about politics but only because it’s a big part of my life, whether I want it to be or not. And believe me, I don’t,” she said. “But it is a part of my life.

“I started loving music way before I even understood what politics is. I only wanted to make music but with time I understood more about the responsibility that I could accept to have.”

She paused and corrected herself: “Not exactly a responsibility but a sort of a privilege. I have this voice that I can use and it has the potential to reach a lot of people. It made me realize that I can use this to talk about things that many other people can’t talk about.”

Daw once said that despite the perceived mundanity of everyday events, “everything we do here as Arabs is connected to politics.” As such, there is a vein of resistance running through much of her work. She sings of love under occupation, equality, society and religion, with freedom the ultimate objective.

“A lot of the time I write for the purpose of trying to tell somebody something, or trying to express my opinion about something,” she said. “And sometimes I just feel this thing that’s blocking me, that I need to release in any way, and my way of releasing it is through music.

“Sometimes I release something just for myself. I write it, I turn it into a song and I don’t release it to the world, because sometimes some things are too private. I still do it, I still work on a song and I still do it in a way that I absolutely love the song, yet it will never be heard by anybody else.”

One song on her debut album is sung in English, titled “Live Free.”

“You know, when I started making music and writing my own songs I started writing in English,” she said. “I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in Arabic. And at some point I realized that it was a little bit strange for me, because the whole personality of a person changes when you change language.

“I wanted to start writing in Arabic to see what it would bring, and it brought a very new side of me that I didn’t know. Everything was different: the melodies, the type of words I used, how I built sentences — something just clicked. Arabic feels a lot more like home when writing music.”