‘The Artist’

What a huge buzz surrounds this film.  In fact there has been so much positive enthusiasm among the critics, so much talk if Oscar nominations, that barely has it arrived in the cinemas in London and already the tide has turned, and others are writing furious articles against it.

As always, where extreme and opposing opinions abound, I like to make up my own mind.

I could characterise my response to the movie by saying that it highlighted for me that I prefer a bit of colour and a smattering of dialogue in my films.

That’s not to say that I disliked it; more that I liked bits of it, but the bits in between those bits went on for too long and my attention wandered, and for about 20 minutes quite early on I had some difficulty in keeping my eyes open.  And in a movie with no dialogue, it’s important to keep your eyes open if you want to stand any chance of following it.

I can see why cinephiles will enjoy it; it is so full of references to its cinematic forebears, borrowing inspiration from movies great and small.  From the heroic dog running to fetch a policeman to rescue his owner, through the waning career of the silent matinée idol at the dawn of the talkies, to the superimposition of  images one on the other in mirrors and shop windows, there are echoes of things we’ve all seen before, in an homage to film history.

The music is fabulous; luscious in the scenes of romance and bathos, jagged and dissonant at the edge of madness, and rattling along for high speed action, and in the absence of dialogue, it brought home how effective the soundtrack is in influencing how we perceive a story’s emotion and drama.

The expressiveness of the faces of the two leads is remarkable, shifting from ‘performance’ to ‘ordinary life’ with a tiny adjustment in smile and wideness of eye.  And while there is no dialogue, it’s not strictly true to say it’s a silent movie, as there is a clever play with sound, which exerts a very witty yet dramatic effect when it is used.

There’s also a cute dog.

I just couldn’t quite escape the feeling that some spoken words would have improved my enjoyment of it.

But go on.  Make up your own mind.

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