Monday, December 12, 2011

The Artist

The Artist
seen @ Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn NY
12.10.11

I've written a fair share this year about performance-capture filmmaking and advances in 3D technology. An increasing number of prominent directors are experimenting with these new techniques, many of them to great success, which has led to speculation that this is where the future of movies lies. I think it's absolutely possible, particularly when this mini-revolution is being led by so many creative giants who have welcomed these innovations late in their careers.

The numbers don't lie: six of the top ten grossing films from last year were released in 3D, and while those are all cartoons and genre movies, 3D is being used for other types of films as well. And while p-cap has been slower to catch on, advances in the field have made the possibility of a p-cap performance getting nominated for an Oscar a plausible one, however slim.


One can imagine that to those within Hollywood, this explosion of technological breakthroughs in filmmaking might feel akin to the period when sound first came to motion pictures. Is it possible that some may find it threatening? Sure, but then neither 3D nor p-cap have yet to change film as fundamentally as sound did. Anyone who has seen a silent movie can tell you how different the experience is: in a way, silent films engage one's imagination more profoundly. It certainly forces you to pay attention more.



As charming and entertaining as The Artist was, I have to admit something about the attitude of George, the main character, struck me as a little off. I can understand someone in his position - a silent movie superstar - scoffing at the coming of talkies, but he doesn't even try to make one, not even when talkies prove to be immensely popular. If he was worried about how his voice would sound - a very legitimate fear, one many stars struggled with during the transition period - he never indicates it. Yeah, foolish pride and all that, but for someone who loves the spotlight as much as George does, you'd think he'd try to work harder at keeping it.

There has been sooooooooo much hype around this movie for so many months, I admit, I came into it thinking it would leave a greater impression on me than it actually did. This doesn't happen to me all that often, but when it does, it's kind of a drag because I always end up feeling suckered in some way. And again, I enjoyed The Artist and I would absolutely recommend it, but when you keep reading about how it won all these film festival awards and how audiences all over the world are eating it up and how it's sure to not only get nominated for Best Picture, but win... you see the problem.



Watching this, I found the experience slightly different than watching a silent film from back in the day. For one thing, I kinda wished there were a live organist playing the score (although the film's score was very good). Also, I found I could "hear" the voices of familiar modern actors like John Goodman and James Cromwell in my head, even though I actually couldn't. Reading the lips of the actors was a little easier, partly because the picture is so clear and clean and there are more close-ups, I think, than in your average old-school silent film. Also, any sound the audience made was magnified in a way that it probably wouldn't be if there were, in fact, live music, because live music, especially an organ like the one at the Loews Jersey City, has a way of filling up a room. Even when I saw Metropolis outdoors with the Alloy Orchestra performing, they were loud enough to drown out any audience sounds.

6 comments:

  1. Sooo jealous you've seen this Rich! I don't know when this'll show up here in my neck of the woods, bummer! Glad you enjoyed it, great review!

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  2. It's worth waiting for, that's for sure.

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  3. I also wasn't completely taken by this film, but I suppose I enjoyed it a bit more than you. The nostalgia aspect seems to be what's working for it the most with Oscar chances. Overall I thought it was quite well done and pretty fun to watch in comparison to what seems like week after week of action blockbusters that only work half the time.

    -Jess

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  4. I enjoyed it; I just think I went in expecting it to be more than it actually was.

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  5. You are lucky to have seen this. I don't know when, or even if it's going to be expanded beyond these handful of NY/LA theaters... This looks fantastic.

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  6. I suspect the reason it's opening slowly might be because the Weinsteins know a B&W silent movie is gonna be a tough sell, even with the kudos it has already received. Hopefully it'll have a much wider release by the time the Oscar nominations are announced.

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