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Gauguin–Voyage de Tahiti: biopic starring Vincent Cassel as Gauguin coming soon

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French film star Vincent Cassel plays the role of a renowned Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin in the much-anticipated movie Gauguin — Voyage de Tahiti (Gauguin). The release of the biopic directed by Edouard Deluc is expected fall 2017.

A feature film biopic on the life of the famous French artist Paul Gauguin during 1891-1893 is about to release on September 20, 2017 in France.

After David Carradine in TV movie Gauguin the Savage directed by Fielder Cook (1980), Donald Sutherland in biopic Oviri by Henning Carlsen (1986), Kiefer Sutherland in Paradise Found by Mario Andreacchio (2003), Lee Donald Taicher in Finding Gauguin by Lee himself (2010) and other actors who played Gauguin in about 30 movies, it is Vincent Cassel, a "specialist in twisted guys", who will interpret the controversial artist today.

More than 1,000 people had been through the casting process before the cast for the movie was chosen.

Alongside French super star Vincent Cassel, it features a multi-national cast including Malik Zidi (a French actor nominated four times for the César Award as Best New Actor between 2001 and 2007), Pernille Bergendorff, a famous Danish actress, and many others, with a few Tahitians among them including Tuhei Adams and Pua-Taï Hikutini.
Copyright FILMIN’TAHITI 2017. Photo credit: Tim McKenna, Julien Carlier and Poema Duprel
According to Manu de Schoenburg from Filmin' Tahiti, "the budget for the film is EUR 6.2 million".
Edouard Deluc, a French filmmaker who shot his acclaimed Mariage à Mendoza (Welcome to Argentina) in 2013, has already proved his attraction for distant lands. For his Gauguin, he has chosen Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia, a French colony in the South Pacific. 90 per cent of the movie was filmed there, mainly in Tautira, where the local production crew reproduced the village of Mataiea, the place where Gauguin had been living in 1893.
Copyright FILMIN’TAHITI 2017. Photo credit: Tim McKenna, Julien Carlier and Poema Duprel
The story of the film is based mainly on Paul Gauguin’s travel diary "Noa Noa" written by the artist after his first visit to Tahiti in 1893. The film covers the period of 1891−1893, the period that marked a turning point in Gauguin’s artwork, as he had refined his style by that time. In eighteen months the artist gave sixty-six masterpieces to the world.
The film opens with a period when Gauguin lives in Paris in absolute destitution and desperately finds a way to devote himself to his painting, return to nature, and find inspiration and a new sensation in the lost Eden. His longing for a distant land where he would be able to feel the silence and hear those inner voices guiding his hand, eventually determines his choice. The artist proclaims himself "a savage", abandons his wife and their five children, forgets French society —"everything that is artificial and conventional" — in favour of Polynesia.

In his sweet exile on a beautiful shore of Tahiti, isolated from the moral, aesthetic, cultural and political codes of civilization, the artist faces immense solitude, poverty and illness.


Enduring severe hardships, he deeps into creation of his paintings sinking into the jungle. There he meets Tehura, 14 or 15 years old, with whom he falls madly in love and who will become his wife and his muse. As an Eve from the Eden, whom he called for in his dreams for so long, she will inspire his most beautiful art pieces.

Yet, Gauguin’s relationship with Tahura is not the bed of roses.

Their love affair is intriguing yet very complicated. Eventually, it is restructured into a love trio of Gauguin (Vincent Cassel), Tahura (Tuhei Adams, 17) and Jotepha (Pua-Taï Hikutini), an impossible love that provokes deep emotion and constitutes one of the most dramatic stakes in the scenario.
Paul Gauguin. The spirit of the dead does not sleep
  • Scene from "Gauguin", Tuheï Adams as Tahura. |Copyright Move Movie/Studio Canal/NJJ Entertainment
  • Paul Gauguin, Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892, oil on burlap mounted on canvas, 116.05 x 134.62 x 13.34 cm. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

'Gauguin–Voyage de Tahiti' is not just about art and love.

Through the life story of the artist, the film shows the dramatic history of the Polynesians at times when their civilization clashes with the Western culture. Gauguin arrives to Tahiti at the key moment when Pōmare V, the last King of Tahiti, dies. Primitive culture of thousands of years, searched for by Gauguin in his voluptuous fantasies, surrenders to the Western standards infected by the French Republic missionaries, right in front of the artists' eyes. And he paints this vanishing civilization, the culture that is losing its identity, those people losing their local beliefs and traditions. He tries to get ahold of something that is inexorably fading away.

There is a deep irony in the film, as Gauguin sacrifices his family, his health and his career to the altar of his art. Yet, in his search of new cultural identity in that exotic Tahitian exile, he is rejected there as an antibody.


Gauguin fails to find primitive culture, he endures his amorous defeat with Tehura, he cannot make friends with the natives, because he’s a law unto himself anywhere he goes, and he puts everyone else down in Tahiti as well. But he was a genius, and he made his greatest masterpieces with this very desire for absolute…


Scene from 'Gauguin'. Vincent Cassel as Gauguin. Photo: courtesy of welcome-tahiti.com.

'Gauguin–Voyage de Tahiti' is not a classic biopic. There is nothing of a boring ‘playing a performance about an artist’s life’ in it.

Director Edouard Deluc reveals, "I wanted to shoot an adventure, a western… an action, while preserving the inner worlds."
Well, he certainly succeeded. The French filmmaker, a graduate of the Beaux-Arts haunted by Gauguin’s "Noa Noa" since his studies, he has freely adapted and romanticized the Tahitian story of the artist as well as has made a win-win scenario starring Vincent Cassel.
"We agreed on the essential: the viewer could not see 'the game offline.' Action was to be played out in the present. This principle has shaped the final form of the film: laconic, at once purified and lyrical," said Vincent Cassel.
Copyright FILMIN’TAHITI 2017. Photo credit: Tim McKenna, Julien Carlier and Poema Duprel
Most of the filming took place during September-October 2016 in Tahiti, and it was a great filming experience for everybody on the location.
"I will tell you: this filming went better than any other I have ever experienced. First of all, we are happy with the work we have done. Everyone is satisfied with the shots. The location is charming," said Vincent Cassel in an interview compiled by Ludovic Lardière.
Copyright FILMIN’TAHITI 2017. Photo credit: Tim McKenna, Julien Carlier and Poema Duprel
To put himself in these Gauguin’s big legendary shoes, Vincent Cassel has read "Noa Noa", the correspondence of Gauguin and his wife, and the text of Octave Mirbeau. He has studied Paul’s paintings and sculptures at the Musée d’Orsay. The actor has even taken courses in painting and sculpture. He grew his beard, lost his weight, not mentioning putting false teeth to restore Gauguin in a decrepit state. He learned Tahitian and invented a step. Above all, Gauguin has taught Vincent Cassel to appreciate painting, "and it is not nothing," as the actor emphasized.
Gauguin's release in France is set on September 20, followed by international premiere on September 27 in French-speaking Switzerland, on October 19 in Russia and on January 4, 2018 in Germany.
Sources: press release of the medias.unifrance.org, welcome-tahiti.com, filmin-tahiti.com, thelocationguide.com, etc. Photographs: courtesy of medias.unifrance.org and Move Movie/Studio Canal/NJJ Entertainment.
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