10 April 2012

Silence Is Golden

The fact that The Artist won so many oscars is not an indication of it's quality. According to that tasteless golden bell-end, Dances With Wolves was better than Goodfellas which, like the power of psychics, 9/11 conspiracies, and the existence of gravity is quite clearly bullshit. Anything Kevin Costner does instantly becomes almost unbearably dull due to the vortex of boredom that is his soul. Costner is a bit like a cross between Jeff Bridges, Tom Hanks and a lobotomised ventriloquist's dummy. 
Sean Connery spent the entire running time of The Untouchables cheekily confusing us all by playing an Irish man with a Scottish accent. However, against Costner's string operated performance as Elliot Ness, the academy lost all perspective and awarded the ageing James Bond an Oscar of his own.

Regardless of it's awards however, The Artist was receiving glowing reviews and so peaked my interest. It's interesting in that by being a silent film The Artist will be one of the most original films out this year. As 3D sails closer to the iceberg of public apathy where it will die a slow and inevitable death, it seems that one of the most attention grabbing things that cinema can do is borrow techniques from about 80 years ago. It's kind of like getting sex tips off your granny. Just because we live in a shallow, loveless time of fisting and death by deep-throat, doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy the simplicity of lights-off missionary followed by shame and pregnancy.

As soon as I walked into the screening of The Artist, it was obvious that it was a silent film. There was about 40 other people already seated with the average age ranging from between 90 and dead. Despite the nostalgic waft of piss and the retirement home feel of the room, I was originally relieved by the coffin dodgers around me. I hate the public in general but at least these ancient doderers wouldn't ruin the film for me by loudly phoning their drug dealer or wanking each other off through the pop corn box.

Unfortunately though, this was a silent film and old people aren't healthy. There was so much coughing and spluttering throughout the movie that I'm genuinely going to get myself checked out for tuberculosis. Like going to a foreign country, I would advise anybody thinking of seeing this film to go for their jabs before hand. It's only been a couple of days since I saw it but I know already I'm one of the few survivors of that screening. There was one guy a few seat down from me who seemed to be trying his absolute hardest to cough out a lung. I would have made sure he was okay but fuck it, I'm British- helping strangers just isn't our 'style'.

The plot of the film is fairly simple, although with no dialogue for exposition it was never going to be The Usual Suspects. The Artist begins with a silent actor named George Valentin at the top of his game and enjoying his fame. After a chance encounter with a wannabe actress, George uses his power and influence to kick start her career with an odd lack of exploitation and not a single dick sucked in sight.

Unfortunately for George though, the talkies are on their way and John Goodman's 1920's Harvey Weinstein wants a new group of meat puppets to whore out on screen. With George being closer to 40 than birth he swiftly finds himself out on his arse and battling depression.

For someone who is not that experienced with this style of film, this was a massively enjoyable experience. So far the only examples of silent film that I've seen are The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Metropolis and porn when there are other people in the house. Regardless though, this is not a style that takes long to get used to. Just watch the flashing images and read the occasional card of dialogue that pops up on screen. In a way it's not too dissimilar to reading a comic book. It was odd too how that when deprived of a sense, the imagination really takes hold. A bit like a Flintstones obsessed schizophrenic when John Goodman speaks you read his lips and you hear his voice just as loud in your head.

It's a credit to both the actors and director that without any words to guide us, the film is just as emotional as any other. It's visual comedy is funny and it's moments of depravity are just as frustrating or heartbreaking. Perhaps the film has been slightly over-hyped but for being bravely un-ironic, genuinely creative and confidently relatable it deserves its galaxy of five star reviews. With it's self-reflective, post-modern storyline it's basically the silent film version of Scream that the 20's never got.

Although the cast are all great, many people were recently lobbying for George's dog to be awarded an Oscar nomination. Not only was this Korean appetiser deserving of the praise, so too was the music with both being just as much a character as John Goodman's shrunken cleavage. Near the end of the film, the music sneakily sneaks into the love theme from Vertigo. For me though it wasn't Hitchcock that this film was most reminiscent of, but rather the Coen Brothers.

The Artist has the 'screwball' feel of The Hudsucker Proxy and the hippy hating colour scheme of The Man Who Wasn't There. It had the old school Hollywood feel of Barton Fink and, like the opening to A Serious Man, was presented in a ratio that under no scientific circumstances could result in square eyes. Even the cast had a distinctly Coen feel with the obvious example being their lovable sun-blocker John Goodman. Jean Dujardin too had that charming presence of someone like George Clooney. Like the Burn After Reading star, his smug levels were luckily always one raised eyebrow below the slime levels oozed off by the likes of the talentlessy hard-titted Alex Pettyfer.

Despite the success of The Artist I don't think we need to prepare ourselves for a shipment of silent films any time soon. The style was used here because it conveniently suited the story as opposed to 3D which is being forced onto us by piracy-injured studio executives. Avatar was a decent film despite the hype of being poked in the eye. This too is a great film that rises above the novelty of it's format to deliver a story, and characters that are worth braving the grim-reaper feel of a cinema full of the grey-haired living dead. If I have any criticism of the film, it would simply be the vocal twist at the end. If I'd known that the main character was French all along, there's no way I'd have sympathised with the garlic-reeking surrender-cunt. Patriotic xenophobia aside though, it's a good film and worth checking out. Although if it had any sense of humour, it would have ended with James Cromwell looking into the camera and uttering, “That'll do, pig”. Not having him do that line is bit like George Lucas hiring Samuel L. Jackson and not having him say 'motherfucker'. 

Missed opportunities...

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