|The que at the RBC on Monday night to see The Artist.|
Mr Stephen Pickering was the RBC Film Club’s host for Monday evening and he asks us to imagine we were sitting in a picture house in 1929 and were about to watch a recently released Czech film entitled Erotikon by director Gustav Machaty. We then watched this very interesting clip (that looked more appealing than the film we were about to see). Steve continued with the illusion saying that we, as a 1929 cinema audience, are used to watching silent movies that have been part of our lives and a major entertainment medium since the 1890’s. As regular cinemagoers we have become accustomed to the actor’s mannerisms, the somewhat over emphasised facial contortions, the skilful editing and the close up shots of the actor’s expressive eyes, all designed to help convey the flow of the story silently. The characters were developed, the tension built. We empathised, and are moved to tears, and all without the uttering of a single word. He went on to tell us that, with the introduction of the "Talkies", films would be able to communicate on a whole new level. Like the real world they mirror, the spoken word can add different meanings to situations and one word can create, in our imagination, whole sub plots and parallel storylines not seen on the screen. He ended this informative and enjoyable introduction with a question to ponder while we watch this evening’s entertainment: Can we travel back in time? Can we recreate instantly for one film the acting and editing skills that the silent actors and technicians honed to perfection over a period of forty years? Or are we about to watch a poor pastiche, whilst the ghostly images of those forgotten actors of the early twentieth century lie forgotten in silent rusting cans of nitrate film? Or is this a wholly new creation deserving of the high acclaim heaped upon it?
|Steve took us back to the cinema of the 1920's.|
The Artist (2011) (as if you didn’t know) is a silent romantic drama that takes place in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932 just as the ‘talkies’ were replacing the silent movie. It focuses on the relationship between an older silent movie star George Valentin and a rising young actress Peppy Miller. Directed by Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius best known for spy film parody’s and starring Jean Dujardin (Little White Lies (2010)) as George and Hazanavicius’s wife Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller.
|George Valentin won an Oscar for the cheesiest grin.|
There’s nothing wrong with a well-made black and white film and there’s nothing wrong with a well-made silent film. Agreed The Artist (2011) is a very well made black and white silent film with period detail that’s just right but when you look beyond the Emperors new clothes syndrome it's a silent film made in the 21st century, in fact its a novelty film and a second viewing did not change my mind. Like many of the silent movies of the 20s and 30s it's lightweight, frothy and a tad boring. The constant musical overlay becomes annoying although the final dance routine was moderately enjoyable, it certainly did not grip this viewer, with a narrative that’s not particularly stimulating. The best silent movies always have more visual action than 'wordy' interludes. In a nutshell is does not deserve the accolades it has received, unless there's an Oscar for the biggest cheesiest grin, there are a lot more worthy movies than this one. It’s difficult to believe the amount of hype, allegedly due to the work of Harvey Weinstein, that has built up around this crushingly twee film, but credit were credit is due its put bottoms on cinema seats and none more so than at our local Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre, Monday nights film club was no exception.