Another Look at ‘The Artist’

Now that all the Oscar hype has calmed down I want to look with a more critical eye on ‘The Artist’.  Indeed I held back from seeing it until this week so that I could look at it with a view uncoloured by the enormous press and critical attention it enjoyed in the run up to the award season.

Did I enjoy it?  Yes of course I did, it was different, it was captivating and delightful it made me question what cinema should be about.  It let me experience for 90 minutes some of the magic my parents felt when they went to see Harold Lloyd or Chaplin.  It also pushed home to me the way each cinematic advance buries what went before.  I have always felt it sad that black and white movies have been digitally coloured to improve their saleability.  We have the same situation right now with a host of 2D films being revamped as 3D epics such as Titanic and Toy Story.  Whilst the move to 3D won’t require actors to develop an extra dimension the way talkies required an appropriate voice, the relentless rush to technological innovation will certainly add to costs which is already reflected in the upward move in ticket prices.

Was ‘The Artist’ worth the critical acclaim?  Michel Hazanavicius has certainly constructed a fine novelty film and told a classic Hollywood story with style and originality  although he owes as much to Jean Dujardin’s irresistible smile as to his  brilliant use of the black and white medium.   But was it superior to Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ for example?  Was Dali’s ‘tear in the eye of a hippopotamus’ (Midnight in Paris) film making/scriptwriting at a lesser level of the art form?   Certainly Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo  who plays Peppy Miller – starlet on the rise – are a wonderful team in representing the silent movie era along with the adorable dog Uggie.  They dance with great verve and they both have a range of facial expressions that help tell a story with minimum on-screen dialogue.  But ‘Movie of the Year’?  Not for me!  Although I enjoyed the film, the dog tricks were a delight and there is a sequence with an empty tuxedo that is memorable,  the finale too is very well directed.  However, if you are looking for a really spellbinding film about the early days of movies, watch ‘Hugo’ or grab a video of ‘Singing in the Rain’ for a romantic tale of an up-and-coming cinema star in the golden age of the talkies. Or for a quirky look at the silent movie genre try to get hold of Kaurismäki’s 1999 film ‘Juha’ which takes a sophisticated reflection on the evolution of silent cinema,

One hopes that Dujardin and Bejo will find success on the international stage since they are wonderfully talented but I did not feel that ‘The Artist’ warranted the degree of attention it received.

 

David M

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