The Trouble with Quibbles: The Artist

Now that The Artist has won the Golden Globe for best comedy/musical, it seems like a good time to chime in with what we thought about the film. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist tells the tale of silent movie superstar George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and bit player Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), whose paths seem intertwined. As Valentin’s career is thrust to edge of obscurity by the advent of talking pictures, Miller seems destined for stardom.

BRYAN: Well, under what guise did you see The Artist?

ADAM: I went as myself: a movie geek who tries to remain open to suggestion. I went in with an open mind, disregarding the fact that I had turned off Michel Hazanavicius previous film, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, 30 minutes in.

BRYAN: I did too. I’m just putting it out there because I think ultimately this film is going to be subjected to a lot of “it was overrated” hype backlash, when I think it has bigger problems than that to worry about. I mean, I was aware of the awards it has won and the praise it has received, but I went in blank as always.

ADAM: Well, I kinda understand the hype and the praise for The Artist, in a year with 28 sequels, it’s nice to see someone going against the grain. The Artist is the kinda like an anti-Transformers.

BRYAN: Sure. I’ll give it some points for being different, but it still needs to be good, and I really didn’t walk away that satisfied. It felt like a silent film for people who have never seen a silent film before.

ADAM: Exactly. And if The Artist were released during the heyday of silent films, it wouldn’t be a classic. It’s no Nosferatu, no Metropolis, no The General. It’s like silent movie fan fiction. You can see the intent and the joy and the love of movies on the screen, but it still falls flat.

BRYAN: I was enjoying it at the start, but then it went nowhere, didn’t do anything, and got really boring. Then all kinds of other little things started to bug me, so instead of thinking, “oh, that was lovely,” I’m going to be way more harsh on the film. And yeah, co-sign your silent film mentions, and if it wasn’t obvious, cause no film really is, this is no Sunrise. But this isn’t even lesser Chaplin.

The dog pretends its been shot… GENIUS!!!

ADAM: I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere before. Or maybe I’m just thinking of Clyde in Every Which Way But Loose.

BRYAN: That was sarcasm. It’s a one trick pony… like this movie. Did the use of Vertigo‘s score piss you off as much as it did me?

ADAM: Not really.

BRYAN: Really?

ADAM: Of all my issues with the film, the score isn’t even on the list.

BRYAN: The actual score was fine, but lifted music from another film was not.

ADAM: Yeah… don’t care, people do it all the time. It happens.

BRYAN: Not really, not like this. I get it if you acknowledge the homage or something. But this was not that. And it was during the climax. I mean, I can’t go make a space opera, and then start playing the Star Wars score during the final battle. I’d be laughed out-of-town.

ADAM: Forest for the trees, dude.

BRYAN: Okay, well how about: why is this film called The Artist? That is a terrible title and has nothing to do with this movie.

ADAM: You’re going with the strangest things to nitpick. How about complete lack of character motivation?

BRYAN: Well, going further down my path… Is Valentin suppose to be good? What I mean is, is the film he directs suppose to be some under-seen masterpiece held back cause of sound? Because it looked like a pretentious waste to me. Or, yeah, character motivation… we could go with that.

ADAM: He’s the artist, silent film is his medium. Pretty straightforward.

BRYAN: When I get bored I start to pick apart everything. Sorry. But, is Tears of Love suppose to be good or was that a joke?

ADAM: At this point, I don’t even know. He’s supposed to be this great silent film performer, “the artist” of his day, but he’s just good. So, when the entire film hinges on this performer who’s supposed to be THE silent film star, and they’re nothing special, it kinda deflates everything else. The premise of the film asks a lot of the audience.

BRYAN: I wasn’t sure what universe we were in. Homage vs. reality was not balanced very well.

ADAM: We’re just supposed to go along with things. He’s supposed to be this great silent film “artist,” but in the real world of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, he’s just some guy with a dog.

BRYAN: I know you love Singin’ in the Rain, and this is a very broad version of that without any great songs or dance numbers.

ADAM: Yeah, I saw dancing in the trailer and mistakenly assumed there would be dancing a’plenty. And I agree with you that it is a terrible title, but not necessarily for the same reason. The title would work for me if he did actually seem like a silent film artist.

BRYAN: I think the tone of the film is all over the place as well, and is most apparent in the climax I spoke of.

ADAM: It’s totally all over the place, cause there’s no real driving force. No momentum. They sucked me in with their Singin’ in the Rain-style opening and then left things floundering around for what felt like forever… I was ready for him to kill himself. I wish he did. That would’ve been a great ending. And then, after he’s dead, people discover Tears of Love and realize he was an artist.

BRYAN: Haha. That would have been awesome. But then you know… everything’s happy now and let’s dance!!!… with some “this is an important movie” overtones.

ADAM: And in spite of all my complaints, I do think Jean Dujardin & Bérénice Bejo are good, talented actors.

BRYAN: They’re fine. They don’t blow me away or anything, but they have to work uphill in the bad movie they’re in

ADAM: Right.

BRYAN: Even the camera work is flat. I’ve seen silent films with more style and better depth than this imitation… NEW silent films… has no one ever heard of Guy Maddin?

ADAM: John’s little brother, right? A kicker, wasn’t he?

BRYAN: Watch Brand Upon the Brain, then come joke!

ADAM: I know who Guy Maddin is.

BRYAN: I think what totally ruined it for me was the scene where Peppy is talking about why silent film is dead and how no one wants to watch people mugging for the camera, only that’s exactly what they’ve been doing the whole movie, mugging. It’s like the filmmakers don’t really like silent film after all… or don’t get it.

ADAM: It’s all just one big muddled mess.

BRYAN: And why was this silent anyways? It felt like they wanted to make it sound, so why not? Why not just do this story better… but in sound? Thank God Hugo is out there to show people why silent cinema is great.

ADAM: So, what you’re really saying is, why did they make this movie at all? Which is what I was thinking walking out of the film. Cause like the rest of the film, the characters are flat, and just do things for no clear reason. Why doesn’t he want to make talkies? Why is she buying all of his things at auction? Why doesn’t she just tell him she wants to help him?

BRYAN: I guess. I mean that’s a little too harsh since this film doesn’t really want to be much, just a nice little riff/reminder that old films were fun too, but man it fails. I think the talkies thing was cause he has an accent.

ADAM: Right, you THINK. They never explain it!

BRYAN: When he talks at the end, that’s them explaining it

ADAM: Too little, too late.

BRYAN: I’m not defending… just saying.

ADAM: I know.

BRYAN: At least it has the good sense not to be 2-plus hours like The Help, now that’s a terrible movie.

ADAM: But it feels like it’s 3 hours long and it isn’t even 2. It’s a slog, that feels longer than every silent movie I’ve ever seen, even longer the the 153 minute cut of Metropolis. So, The Artist… a flat movie with flat characters who lack any clear, deeper motivations, doing things they themselves say people don’t want to see anymore. Grade: D

BRYAN: While I agree with you completely–why does that keep happening? Be wrong for once–I was slightly entertained at the beginning… just slightly. So, I’m going with Grade: C-

Time to go see Hugo in 3D again.

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3 responses to “The Trouble with Quibbles: The Artist

  1. Pingback: Review: The Artist « M-E D I A

  2. Pingback: 2012 Oscar Checklist – Part 1: The Links | Shooting the Script

  3. Pingback: 2012 Oscar Checklist – Part 2: Men at Work | Shooting the Script

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