Sunday, January 29, 2012

THE ARTIST


I have friends who weren't as crazy about this film as some critics and audiences are, and obviously the Oscar voters too, since it's nominated for best picture. Even French friends (one of the silent movie era aspects of the making of THE ARTIST is that it stars a French movie star, Jean Dujardinm unknown here, and is made by the French filmmaker, Michel Hazanavicius, who wrote and directed it, but it transcends the limitations of foreign films because it's silent, reflecting the universality of all films in the silent era).

I chose to see it with friends in a movie theater even though I received a disc for awards consideration. It seemed that to give it a fair shot it needed to be seen in a setting similar to the only way a movie could be seen back in the day when the movie is set, the end of the 1920s and early 1930s when the transition from silent movies to sound ones occurred.

Some critics have noted that there's a lot of nostalgia in several of the nominees this year, ala Woody Allen's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (my favorite movie so far I think), especially nostalgia for the old days of movie making, ala THE ARTIST and HUGO.

But it isn't just nostalgia. Not to my mind anyway. Sure, during troubled times, a lot of us look back to a perhaps idealized vision of the past for consolation, I certainly do. That's one of the reasons I watch TCM, Turner Classic Movies, so much. But there are plenty of other reasons as well, like the artistry of black and white filmmaking back when, as well as different styles of acting and behaving and costuming and speaking and much more.

THE ARTIST pays homage to all of that in ways I found actually equally original and contemporary as nostalgic and classic. There are references to many genres of film from the past and from iconic films themselves, such as SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, A STAR IS BORN, CITIZEN CANE, LOST WEEKEND, and tons more. In fact, I found almost every scene had a reference oblique or direct to a great and sometimes not great film from the past.

But there are also elements of filmmaking and film acting and film editing and directing that seemed original and/or reflective of more contemporary techniques and styles, including the use of sound in a dream sequence and the emotional veracity and non-exploitative aspects of some of the love scenes.

At any rate, I left the theater as elated and delighted and satisfied by the movie experience as I've been by  any film this year, including MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, though I left that film in love with love and THE ARTIST in love with Berenice Bejo, the female star and main revelation of this film, along with her leading man and the one who carries the film and makes its conceit succeed, Jean Dujardin.

There are better known American movie actors in smaller parts who shine as well—John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller, James Cromwell—but the movie depends on the two stars' performances working as both an homage to old style silent film acting as well as to contemporary taste in film acting and they pull it off perfectly for my taste.

But I recommend seeing it in a theater while that's still possible to get the full impact of THE ARTIST's artistry.

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20 Comments:

Blogger JIm said...

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January 29, 2012 at 11:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 29, 2012 at 11:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 29, 2012 at 3:38:00 PM EST  
Blogger Robert G. Zuckerman said...

I've heard only good things about this film Michael, from various sources and now, you.

January 29, 2012 at 9:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Lally said...

Yeah, I think if you love movies you gotta love this one.

January 29, 2012 at 10:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 29, 2012 at 10:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Jim's posting/pasting/spewing his spam in a movie critique is further evidence of his fanaticism and utter lack of care.

January 30, 2012 at 7:11:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 30, 2012 at 8:05:00 AM EST  
Blogger Lally said...

How sadly pathetic rightwing tactics can be, like Gingrich accusing Romney of being negative and lying, talk about the pot and the kettle. But rightwingers, like the deleted one, cannot see their own faults, just the ones they make up about people and things that frighten them. Poor little lost boys.

January 30, 2012 at 8:19:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

I must have just made up that another green company who got tax money just went bankrupt.

January 30, 2012 at 8:37:00 AM EST  
Blogger Lally said...

Oh my goodness a company that got tax money went bankrupt! It's never happened before! Everything that gets tax money always succeeds! Oh, only under the Republicans! That's right, the economy was succeeding under Bush/Cheney so well it caused a worldwide financial collapse leading to another Great Depression but Bush/Cheney decided to bail out giant financial institutions with taxpayers money and that went so well the economy collapsed even more! Not counting the biggest deficit and debt load in US history, all very successful under Bush/Cheney (and not one peep, go back and check, from the deleted one). But the minute Obama got elected: Oh no the economy is really in bad shape now. Under Bush/Cheney we were losing a million jobs at a rate never seen before since the Great Depression, oh no that's right, also under Reagan, and under Obama that job loss was stopped and reversed! Oh no! et-endless-cetera bozo.

January 30, 2012 at 8:45:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

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January 31, 2012 at 12:21:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 31, 2012 at 12:22:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

JIm said...
When govt. attempts to pick winners and losers bad things happen. Solyndra et al is just the latest.

January 31, 2012 12:22:00 AM EST

January 31, 2012 at 8:15:00 AM EST  
Blogger Lally said...

So when Reagan picked the air traffic controllers union (and unions in general) to lose as part of his rightwing Republican strategy to feed the greed of corporate leaders despite the harm to non-millionaires across the board as a result, and he and other Republicans pick people with asthma to lose by allowing pollution especially in poor neighborhoods and the people of Apalachia to lose when Republican administrations allow whole mountaintops to be blown off and the toxic debris from strip mining to pollute rivers and picks the fish and wildlife to lose and the world to lose by not regulating coal plants and car exhaust emissions and picks the Saudi Arabians to win despite their treatment of women and promotion of Wahabinism and agribusiness over small farmers and sugar cane and corn growers over other crops and red states over blue for getting more federal funds etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. (and yes, a few Democrats have been guilty of supporting corporate greed over the common welfare but a fraction as much as the Republican administrations and controlled Congresses of branches of same). The federal government supporting research and development for both start ups and older companies is what made the '50s and '60s so productive and successful for businesses and those who worked for them in the USA as opposed to the post-Reagan decline of the so-called "middle class" which just means anyone not a millionaire. The reason China and other countries are eating our lunch is because their governments invest in new businesses and innovations knowing full well that some will succeed and some will fail but none will occur if left to the shortsighted greed of most corporate leadership and the mostly Republican politicians who protect and defend that. If we count projects that government has funded that have turned out to be losers, the Reagan and Bush/Cheney administrations would far exceed any Democratic administration in picking losers. End of allowing the deleted one to have his misinformation, distortions, and lies be part of this blog.

January 31, 2012 at 8:44:00 AM EST  
Blogger Robert G. Zuckerman said...

When spammers attempt to assert themselves robotically with juvenile repetitiveness, any chance of their being taken seriously diminishes increasingly along with their childish behavior.

January 31, 2012 at 9:10:00 AM EST  
Blogger JIm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 31, 2012 at 7:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tore Claesson said...

I haven't seen all the movies on your list yet. But I did watch, and love, Midnight in Paris. It's my kind of quiet humor. I know Paris well, after having been there hundreds of times. Yes, it rains a lot there. Which sort of empties the streets of pedestrians and leaves this big city looking rather lonely. I can't say I love that as much as Woody claims he does. But it makes for good footage. Funny, I never thought of Paris as a romantic city even though I met my wife there.
My wife, who actually lived in Paris for four years or so weren't as enamored by the movie as I was. (She much prefers Bullets Over Broadway.) But I don't think it had so much to do with Paris as such.

January 31, 2012 at 9:37:00 PM EST  
Anonymous RK said...

Hey there - found this post while just casually webbing around about
David Milch - some of your comments about movies struck a chord with me about judging a movie's quality, how one determines, etc. and my little pet theory - thought might resonate. It actually started with Deadwood which I found ON DEMAND well after its completion which I then proceded to watch all three seasons over the course of a week and was so blown away by it (which explains the ongoing Milch fascination) but nevermind - off the point - Point is with advent of Cable and doing just what you describe, surfing during commercials, you run across something you've seen already, to me how willing you are to rewatch is the main indicator of how good something actually is. There are many things I've seen which the moment I recognize them I go nope - been there done that, not interested, surf on - but there are some things, only a relative few actually which grab me and I immediately want to rewatch and on that basis I give out quality points - such as DEADWOOD - I could always always always stop surfing to watch some of it back in the day it was replaying on an HB0 channel just to listen to dialogue, watch the actors, etc. Other shows, movies do the same - and strangely enough, the champion for me so far (meaning that yes, I have to declare, even though it may show me in a good light)is.... wait for it... GROUNDHOG DAY... Watched it once... thought it was really good but since then, many years ago, with it being shown so often on cable I wouldn't be surprised that I've seen various parts of it over 100 times and it never fails to fascinate me.
Other shows too but not to such a degree. so if this is in form of a question, when you're channel surfing does the time you allow yourself to linger on something you've already seen - maybe many times - directly correspond to its quality?

June 28, 2012 at 1:44:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Lally said...

RK, don't know if you knew that I had a small role on DEADWOOD (one episode, I think it was the last one in the second season where I played a craggy old cavalry captain, it was supposed to be recurring with the guy retiring and moving to Deadwood but family issues caused me to retire from acting instead, anyway...) but I agree it's one of the best written and acted and directed shows in TV history. As to your question, yes, that's the way i see it, if something keep me from continuing to surf channels that's a reflection of how successful it is—with the caveat that that's just my taste. Critics are interesting to read, for me, when they write well and explain their opinions and taste and judgments well and/or originally and/or entertainingly and engagingly. I feel like my opinions and taste may not always be expressed so originally or all of the above, but I have the added ingredient of having been a screenwriter and an actor for over twenty years in Hollywood so I might have some insights into how difficult a thing is to accomplish on film and I taught film at the college level for four years when I was in my late twenties and early thirties, and because of my Hollywood years I have personally worked with or known many filmmakers etc. But in the end, it's all a matter of what engages our attention when we stumble on it and how long it continues to. And like for you, GROUNDHOG DAY always makes me stop and watch, not only because it's so cleverly conceived and written, and so well acted and directed, but also because it exemplifies what movies do best, express imagination as reality and move toward a resolution (even if it turns out to be an anti-resolution as in some indie flicks, not always to my satisfaction but sometimes that works) that is inevitable and hopefully we don't see coming exactly as it does, but even if we do, makes the journey to that end worthwhile in itself. Sort of like life at its best.

June 28, 2012 at 11:01:00 AM EDT  

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