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Thread: "The Artist" directed by Michel Hazanavicius

  1. #1
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    "The Artist" directed by Michel Hazanavicius

    2011 will go down in movie history as the year Hollywood made its homage to classic cinema with films like “War Horse” Spielberg’s epic tribute to David Lean, “Hugo” Scorsese’s tribute to George Mêlées, and finally “The Artist” Hazanavicius’s tribute to the silent era. All three films celebrate a past style of filmmaking that is sadly missing from modern cinema – the simple ability to entertain. While I may have used the term simple to describe the feeling of being entertained in a particular fashion, the artists who bring us that entertainment do so in a way that is far from being simple.

    In point of fact, cinema is the most complex and transient art form in existence. Unlike a song that can be sung, a play that can be quoted, a picture that can be duplicated onto another surface, film must be seen and heard during a sitting. After that, it is only a memory. One cannot go out of a theater and reenact a film by oneself. You can hum Rigoletto or Beethoven, recreate an actor’s performance in simile, you can even describe a painting, but you cannot perform a movie and it is nearly impossible to relate the experience in printed form. A critic can describe their impressions and also describe the plot in every way. But to really enjoy cinema, one must go through that experience.

    Sitting through “The Artist” I began to understand the power of early cinema as a storytelling art form. Where most theaters had only an organist or piano for mood music, it was the power of the image on the screen that sold this method of storytelling to audiences long before World War I, long before the Roaring Twenties, and long before era of sound. While their method of acting and style of camera work has become cliché, we can still look back and see the fascination that early silent cinema brings. While the projected image is just a flat screen that has variations of reflected light, that light and screen give so much more to us than just a story – they give us laughter, they give us pathos, they make us feel wonder, and they fill us with a sense of dread. The art of cinema is clearly expressed in its most basic form in “The Artist” and yet it is one of the most stylized films since “Schindler’s List.” Brought to you in glorious black and white, the film uses primarily music to convey the emotion of the scene. As the film comes to climax in the story, the music changes to the score that Bernard Herrmann wrote for the Hitchcock film, “Vertigo.” Why director Michel Hazanavicius chose this moment to bring that music is one that borders on plagiarism. However, Herrmann’s music is as powerful now as it was back in 1958, a timeless piece of music that literally ends with a bang. How funny that Hazanavicius should also choose to use a sound card to purposely miscue the audience about the outcome.

    “The Artist,” shot completely in Hollywood during a two month period in 2010, is the finest homage to American cinema I have ever seen and reminds me of another great gift the French made to America over a hundred fifty years ago. “The Artist” deserves every award and accolade it has accumulated and probably a few more – in terms of editing, score, photography, set design, costume, acting, production, and direction; there was no finer film for 2011 – a present wrapped in a big black and white bow from those who admire us most.

    Note: I went back for the entire year and could not find another post, festivals included, that had a review of this film. If there was one, you can certainly attach this comment to it. Cinemabon
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    I saw it at the New York Film Festival last October, so you'll find my review of THE ARTIST in the Festival Coverage section. director, Dujardin, Béjo, Cromwell, and others were all there for a big lively Q&A. I was struck by Dujardin's modesty. All the awards may have swelled his head a little now, but the fact that he was an actor of very modest fame in France has helped him keep perspective.

    I agree totally that the film shows the power of silent cinema as a story-telling device, its strengths and its limitations. Its pure visual magic. Its power to move, also its tendency to dwell on sentimentality and produce both wan and exaggerated emotion.

    Glorious black and white. Yes but it was shot in digital color and then converted to black and white, which was the easy way to go.

    THE ARTIST borrows from many styles and periods. You not the use of Bernard Hermann. The filmmakers play fast and loose with allusions, and this is far from being an accurate rendition of purely silent film style. So, 'the art of cinema in its most basic form" must be taken with a grain of salt. Nothing is pure here. But you get a feel of what silent film is like, relatively speaking. Of course there is much reliance on a lush orchestral score, and I don't think the movie would work with a general audience at all without that. It all works wonderfully well. It's extremely clever and adeptly done (and in a very short shooting time, as you point out: they did not have a very big budget -- Hollywood itself would never have known how to do this, probably).

    It's true that something is wrong with the filing system or search system on Filmleaf since you couldn't find my ARTIST review, if you even looked in the Festivals. If you type in the title in the search box NYFF 2011 comes up, but it's the 11th line item. However if you had gone to the NYFF thread in the Festival Coverage section you'd fid it in the link index, which looks like this:


    INDEX OF LINKS TO REVIEWS (NYFF2011)

    4:44 Last Day on Earth (Abel Ferrara 2011)
    Artist, The (Michel Hazanavicius 2011)
    Carnage (Roman Polanski 2011)
    Corpo Celeste (Alice Rohrwacher 2011)
    Dangerous Method, A (David Cronenberg 2011)
    Descendants, The (Alexander Payne 2011)
    Dreileben (Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf, Christoph Hochhäusler 2011) [NYFF Special Events]
    Footnote (Joseph Cedar 2011)
    George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Martin Scorsese 2011)
    Goodbye, First Love (Mia Hansen-Løve 2011)
    Kid with the Bike, The (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 2011)
    Le Havre (Aki Kaurasmäki 2011)
    Loneliest Planet, The (Julie Loktov 2011)
    Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin 2011)
    Melancholia (Lars von Trier 2011)
    Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo 2011)
    My Week with Marilyn (Simon Curtis 2011)
    Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan 2011)
    Pina (Wim Wenders 2011)
    Play (Ruben Östlund 2011)
    Policeman (Nadav Lapid 2011)
    Separation, A (Asghar Farhadi 2011)
    Shame (Steve McQueen 2011)
    A Dangerous Method *David Cronenberg 2011)
    Skin I Live In, The (Pedro Almodóvar 2011)
    Sleeping Sickness, The (Ullrich Köhler 2011)
    Student, The (Santiago Mitre 2011)
    This Is Not a Film (Jaafar Panahi 2011)
    Turin Horse, The (Bela Tárr 2011)
    We Can't Go Home Again (Nicholas Ray 1972/2011)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-03-2012 at 09:04 PM.

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    From the electronic magazine Senses of Cinema comes this post-Oscars review by Joseph Natoli framed from a youthful-ipod-in-hand prospective that I would argue ignores some of the lesser valued moments of silent films - that the acting styles from that era were full of overly done gestures and facials, most likely due to directors who could not use sound for subtly. That point is emphasized in the scene with Valentin as he watches his old movies and practically cringes at what were once popular antics, now hopeless left to a forgetten past. Here is the link to that review...

    http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2012/f...yond-artistry/
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    I read it. I think the author overstressed his points. We have been told ad nauseum that electronic devices cut us off from our humanity. I'm sure you're right that people have forgotten how pushed the emotions in silent films were. I don't know who would want to go back to that, though I like the pure image. I think background music in movies in the Forties and Fifties was terribly annoying and intrusive.

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    Mesmerizing Differences of Presentation

    As the intellectually and visually gritty drama of Another Earth (2011), The Artist is as emotionally and musically riveting resonating on the more universal and familiar themes of human existence. Whereas Another Earth tells of a traumatic and unusual intense unfolding of the intimate human drama of tragedy, The Artist displays more of a silent and artistic version of the popular bigger than life love romance and adventure of The Titanic (1997). Whether or not The Artist will hold up in time is another matter because there is the "different wow" factor in play here. Being an unusual contemporary silent, black and white film with a huge reliance of music melodies, The Artist brings forth a substantial different movie experience based on rhythmic tones and gorgeously timed tempos of musical auditory emotions (like radio) allowing for less of the mental machinations than the emotive inner vibrations of sight and sound. The Artistic is able to take advantage the rarely used medium of music and silent dialogue which forces the audience to tap into a much more reflective and emotionally visceral level. Nevertheless, some of the film's creative and emotionally compelling drama and renewal comes from that sudden burst of the audience having to use rarely used sense over the duration of the whole movie. However, The Artist may have the fortune of retaining its brilliance and flair for the unique in its genre, much like Brazil (1985) has been able to retain is imaginative power and classic claim or Lost In Translation (2003) for its minimalist plot and immersive authenticity.

    However, The Artist doesn't have the exclusive patent on the effective use of music or silent dialogue or emphasis on pure behavioral performances to make its resonating connection to the audience come across. Evita (2005) was produced with only singing throughout the movie. The Monkey's had their surrealistic LSD tripping movie, Head (1968) more than 40 years ago. Wall*e (2008) the animated non-dialogue version had that even more difficult time of creating emotive impact without the fine details of a live human actor's presentation. There's even Wait Until Dark (1967) with one of the best thrilling literally black climatic scenes in movie history with minimal dialogue or the horror film 1408 (2007) finds John Cusack alone by himself trapped in a hotel room for most of the movie. Solaris (1972) is also notable for its long passages without dialogue. Even Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (1999) in its fourth season in "Hush" had no audible dialogue for most of the episode or Apocalypto (2006) with Mel Gibson had little use for dialogue has his character fought for survival or Jarhead (2005) that relied more on the ambiance and setting for its emotional impact than dialogue, or Touching the Void (2004) where most of the vivid power of the movie comes from the solo survival drama on a mountain slope. As for music, The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and even The Cooler (2003) with Mark Isham's score have already accomplished a great synthesis of music to film. Of course 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) likely can claim the musical backdrop and minimalist use of dialogue in capturing its audience in a vision beyond this earth and human understanding.

    Both Another Earth and The Artist use share the strong element of the use of irony, where characters in the movie do not know of the whole events taking place, where the character George Valentin is in the dark much of times as to what Peppy Miller is doing whereas in Another Earth, John Burroughs is unaware of the identity of the Rhoda Williams in connection to his tragedy. Another Earth operates on a different level, focusing on the mental level and the internal emotions of thought and feelings while The Artist takes its power using the behaviorist, externalize primal visual and auditory feelings that propel this movie with its intense resonating emotions.

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    Very good review, tabuno.

    So THE ARTIST is unique -- but then again, not so unique as people think.

    I have been told several times by French people that the French don't like THE ARTIST as much as Americans do, but it was a Cannes selection and won Best Fim at the Cesars. Jean Dujardin, somebody else told me in France, is hard for them to accept in this role because he's known primarily as a comic actor. But it was a considerable success with the French press, Allociné 4.1, which is like an 80-something on Metacritic. I personally found it very clever but was not emotionally touched by it when I first saw it at the New York Film Festival. When I watched it again in a theater I was more moved at the end.

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    Silence is cyclical, fashionable, or trendy?

    Several filmmakers have used silence in combination with music to bring out drama. Alfred Hitchcock, who started in silent films, was one of the first to use music and picture to establish suspense. Brian DePalma is famous for it and used it to great benefit in nearly all of his films.

    You didn't mention Mel Brook's 1976 "Silent Movie" which attempted to do the same things "The Artist" did by making a tribute to silent films but through comedy. Brooks was criticized at the time for making a film in black and white (Young Frankenstein) followed by a film with no dialogue "Silent Movie." Popular on college campuses, Brooks found his audience and "Young Frankenstein" immediately became a cult hit, although you hear less of "Silent Movie." Later, Brooks made a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock with "High Anxiety" and used the same "Vertigo" music that Hazanavicius used in "The Artist." I guess once you go Herrmann, you never go back.
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