Silents: The Artist

Liz: The Artist: 2011 award winning silent film about silent film star George Valentin struggling to transition to talkies and rising star Peppy Miller who tries to help him.

It sounds strange to say, but I like George Valentin’s face. He has a great smile and looks like someone from time period of the movie—the late twenties to early thirties. The film felt as if it were shot during that time. The costumes, the movie studio, the bits of silent films on the silver screen, all reminiscent of Singing in the Rain, made the movie fun to watch regardless of the plot.

The Artist was well done with regards to acting and cinematography. I loved the music, and the occasional use of sound (in a dream and at the end) was brilliant (Jaz: agreed!) and worked great with George’s trouble moving from silent to talkie pictures.

I didn’t like that George was married when his attraction to Peppy became obvious. He didn’t cheat on his wife, but he did treat her poorly. “I’m unhappy,” his wife said. “So are millions of us,” he replied. She wasn’t perfect either, but I don’t blame her for leaving the arrogant fool. I really wanted to like the guy, but there were times when it was difficult. In fact, several times I wanted to shake him and remind him he was married or tell him to get over himself, quit moping and get back to work. Although I can’t approve of Peppy’s infatuation with the married George, I admire her devotion to him even after he loses his career, his wife, his money, and his self-respect.

I also thought George’s love of the spotlight and his depression were overplayed a bit. I got the idea well before the plot moved on.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again.

Jaz: I’m just going to say it: Jean DuJardin is no Gene Kelly. Okay … Dujardin had to learn tap for The Artist, whereas Kelly started dance lessons when he was eight. So I can’t really compare them. Dujardin’s performance was pretty impressive. Still, with all the obvious parallels to Singin’ in the Rain (falls in love with a cute extra, tap dancing scenes, similar appearance, silent-talkie shift) it’s hard to ignore.

Now that that’s out of the way, The Artist is a great film. Clever, tongue-in-cheek, and the cinematography is refreshing. Some scenes are heavy on the melodrama, as when Dujardin maniacally burns reels of film, but who doesn’t like the occasional bit of melodrama? Especially in black and white. I’ve always thought the latter allows for more creativity in the film medium.

Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo’s talent and chemistry work well, so much so that the supporting actors didn’t steal the show. And that’s saying something, because Clifton the chauffeur (played by James Cromwell) and Jack the dog were ridiculously likable.

The Artist got a lot of critic attention – less so from American audiences on its opening weekend. When I went to see it there were about four other couples in the theater. Sigh. Silent films just don’t make a lot of noise with U.S. audiences anymore…

Advertisements

12 Classic Films for the Bucket List (Before You Kick It)

Snap out of West Side Story. Ditch Gone with the Wind. And don’t even think about playing Casablanca. They’re already on hundreds of lists. Why rehash the obvious? It’s boring. So without further ado:

1. Lilies of the Field (1963) Based on the novel by William Edmund Barrett, the film follows the story of a wandering jack-of-all trades (Sidney Poitier) who comes across a group of German nuns convinced he’s been sent by God to build them a church. I love this film.

2. My Man Godfrey (1936). A ditzy socialite (Carole Lombard) hires a hobo living in the dump as the family’s butler, then promptly falls in love with him. Whether he returns the affections is more doubtful, especially considering the utterly irrational in-laws he would be stuck with …

 3. Bringing Up Baby (1938) A prim paleontologist (Cary Grant) wants a sponsor to donate one million dollars to his museum, but messes it all up after getting mixed up with a harebrained woman and her leopard. My first screwball favorite.

 4. Rebecca (1940). Joan Fontaine plays a young, naïve bride tortured by the lingering presence of her husband’s deceased first wife. And also by the super creepy Mrs. Danvers.

5. To Have and Have Not (1944) This was Bogart and Bacall’s first film, and smolders with chemistry. Bogart rents a charter boat to tourists in Martinique and is asked to smuggle out resistance fighters. He refuses, but then has a fateful encounter with a pickpocket. Bacall was 19 (19!) when she filmed this.

6. It (1927) Clara Bow has definitely got “it” in this silent film. She plays a strong, independent working female set on getting what she wants … one of which happens to be the company’s head honcho.

7. Interrupted Melody (1955). This film is based on the life of Australian opera singer Marjorie Lawrence, who was struck by polio at the height of her career. It has fantastic famous opera scenes and stars the talented and gorgeous Eleanor Parker (the evil baroness from The Sound of Music).

 8And Then There Were None (1943) Psychological thriller based on Agatha Christie’s mystery. Ten guests are invited to a house on a lonely island and are killed off one by one. It’s creepy and suspenseful.

9. Carefree (1938) What list is complete without a film starring the iconic Astaire/Rogers duo? This one involves a psychologist, hypnosis, and skeet shooting gone hilariously awry. (Shall We Dance is another good film, and features the catchy “potato, patahto” song.)

10. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). Gregory Peck plays a journalist who decides to experience anti-Semitism firsthand by saying he’s Jewish for two weeks. It’s thought-provoking and gives a revealing look at anti-Semitic sentiment during the 40s.

11. Seven Chances (1925). Critics and hardcore classic film buffs rave about The General, but do you ever hear much about Keaton’s Seven Chances? It’s got great visuals, obvious when the hero runs down a canyon in the midst of rocks that look like giant meatballs. Plus he gets chased by an angry horde of wannabe brides.

 12. Naughty Marietta (1935) Another film for the opera fan, starring Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. MacDonald plays a French princess who runs away to New Orleans to avoid marrying a stuffy old Spaniard. There’s a great scene with singing marionettes (they’re cute, really).

To Mr. Ebert on His Death

Dear Mr. Ebert,

I meant to send you a letter a month ago, but in the jumble of everyday rituals and goings-about, it slipped my memory.

I confess I was also intimidated by the thought of writing to you, the humble amateur blogger fan scribbling away to a witty Pulitzer prize-winner. How I regret that now.

I’ve been reading your reviews since the age of twelve, when I eagerly scrambled for the local newspaper’s tiny entertainment section every Friday before my sisters could get to it. I didn’t always agree with you – you like boobs and the occasional Nicholas Sparks adaptation – but you always write with wit, knowledge, insight and passion. Your writing has soul. No one who has read your work could doubt this one fact: you truly love films.

Because of you, I gained a greater appreciation for the art of film, even seriously considered majoring in it. I opted for science instead: I wasn’t sure I could endure watching movies like Mad Dog Time. Then again, your reviews of horrible excuses for films were some of your most entertaining. So there may be hope for me yet.

Your blog posts, too, are thought provoking and a delight to read. I wish I could have seen the end product of the many plans you had as you mentioned in your last post.

There is so much more that could be said about your accomplishments, your life, your influence on the film industry. I leave others to the daunting task. Never has the death of a complete stranger moved me so much. To your wonderful wife, Chaz Ebert, I offer my condolences.

You will be missed.

Roger Ebert, blogger, journalist, film critic, died today after a long fight with cancer. He was 70 years old.