Tuesday, June 26, 2012
When Intentions Don't Matter: The Artist (2011)
For starters, I liked The Artist. I found it quite entertaining. A lovable lark of a movie. Some of those that disliked it befuddled me, not because I haven't myself often disliked a movie that many others loved but because their dislike felt like concentrated hatred and anger and disgust. So here's what I have to say.
Director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin worked on a couple of parody spy thrillers named OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009). These were successful efforts and they thought, "Hey, let's try a silent movie parody next."
Then they did The Artist. Hoping for another success they got more than they bargained for when the world took notice and started touting it as a great film. Like anyone stumbling into such a situation, they shut their mouths and played the part. But the fervent backlashing criticisms that began rolling in, entirely out of proportion with such a movie, kept backhanding it for not following all the "rules" of silent cinema (and boy did we all found out just how many people out there fancy themselves experts on silent cinema. I had no idea there were so many goddamn scholars in my midst).
"Why no, my good man, it wasn't like a silent film at all. You see, old sport, the proper use of the language of silent cinema precludes the use of a theme of betrayal and despair conveyed as subtext while emerging in a lighthearted context alongside the..."
Oh, shut the fuck up!
They weren't attempting to make the perfect silent film. They weren't intending to outdo Chaplin, Gance, Keaton, Griffith or Eisenstein. They were making a parody of a silent movie and, for the most part, did a pretty good job. It was a parody, an homage, a silly tribute. Christ! But their intentions stopped mattering because in the eyes of, oh hell, everyone they became these two interlopers who actually thought they were great silent artists! The nerve! And how about that use of the Vertigo music? Why I never! And it's not even clear by the end why the lead character refused to do sound movies. How dare they not make that plot point airtight in this lighthearted fucking frolic! How dare they!
Seriously, it's like taking their two spy parody films and going apeshit because they're not Foreign Correspondent.
Look, I wouldn't have given it Best Picture. I certainly wouldn't have given it all the myriad accolades it received. But I liked it and all that bullshit semi-importance heaped upon it by festivals and award shows wasn't its fault. That just happened. Don't hold that against it. It's just a parody/tribute trying to have a good time and be a little inventive and loose with the format. That's all. So now that's it's out on DVD and streaming and I'm hearing all this again, I just have to ask everyone, please, keep it down... and enjoy the movie. Or don't. But please don't criticize for not being Sunrise. Thank you.