Saturday, February 18, 2012
Silence Ain't Always Golden
Another industry that comes up smelling of morning dew, film, would have been as dismissive about its silent era stars with the advent of talkies. Many lives were destroyed, as we know, yet those stars were probably as guilty of vanity and pride as Houston was.
So is George Valentin (the much-nominated Jean Dujardin), who just cannot see the writing on the wall. Yet, as he is riding the last crest of silent stardom, he literally bumps into the young Peppy Miller (Argentinian-born Berenice Bejo), who truly has the effervescence of another era.
As his life falls to pieces, so her star doesn’t just rise, it rockets. And, in true Hollywood style, Bejo just happens to be wife of the director (Lithuanian-born Michel Hazanavicius). So far so predictable. Moreover, a cynic would say that at least they don't have to dub their French accents into American. But what about the story?
Most of us aren’t old enough to remember the real era, apart from the only artist who surpassed it, Charlie Chaplin, so we’re looking at that time not with nostalgia but with a talkie, TV and social media consciousness. Yes, it’s very sweet and helped along by the cutest dog in all creation, Jack, as in Russell, but does it add to that/or and this era?
Taking the route of homage, Hazanavicius goes soft and merely tries to imitate that time, complete with a forced happy ending. It isn’t even an ironic conclusion, it’s a reward for the audience, he says, for sitting through a “difficult film”.
The words, from my point of view, are more like boring and implausible than difficult. Would someone with such a meteoric career have had time to love and care for such a self-pitying egotist? Possibly, but not likely.
Whatever the case, The Artist needn’t have taken this route, though it certainly is earning plenty of nominations and plaudits. But the only anchor through a film that is destined for a dusty shelf like those it emulates, finally, is Bejo's wry, sideways smile. That, for this twitchy viewer at least, is enough to launch a thousand careers.