Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shut up, silent movie!

When I say that the dog was my favorite thing about The Artist, it doesn't actually mean that I thought the dog was so fucking great.

I didn't like the movie, is what I'm saying.

I was interested in The Artist from the start, since it seemed like a cool idea, and definitely something that wanted to be seen in the theater, but I didn't actually think I was going to like it. As Couch Baron wrote in his brilliant review, "if going in, you worry that it’s going to annoy you? You’re probably right." And I can't say this any better than he did, so: "The film is so up its own ass that it seems to think it’s above mundane considerations such as story and editing, and as a result I found it far too clich├ęd, too overwrought, and too indulgent."

As a piece of filmmaking in the most literal sense (separating out that pesky storytelling part), it is unquestionably well made. It's beautifully shot and well acted, and I appreciate the experiment of it and the homage to old Hollywood. There were some moments that I loved, particularly the use of silence — which sounds like a silly thing to say about a silent movie, but I mean real silence, when the score (more on that later) dropped out and there was no sound at all.

But admiring a movie and enjoying a movie, sadly, are not the same thing, and I don't remember the last time I wanted so desperately to look at my watch during a film (I need a new battery so the light doesn't work so I couldn't and it was like time had stopped, not in a good way). At one point I actually thought, If I were here alone I would leave. I was so bored! Is that a symptom of my modernness? Am I unable to engage in a story told without words? Maybe? But I think it was that I just didn't care about this story. Or more importantly, that this very slight story was dragged out to a horribly paced hour and forty minutes during which not a whole lot really happened and I certainly wasn't made to care about any of the people it wasn't happening to.

For as much as I respected the visuals, I hated the score. Which is tough, cause, y'know, silent movie; there is literally no other sound besides this awful awful music. I get that they were going for a period thing and I don't mind the music being heavy handed necessarily - it has to carry a lot of the weight of the storytelling (such as it is) - but I just thought it was terrible. This is not music I would ever choose to listen to and it is ever present and so oppressive.

Also? George is a dick. He starts the film being a giant asshole to everyone, and his fall from grace doesn't really do anything to change that. He's sullen and whiny and completely ungrateful to the people who try to help him. It's never explained why he can't move to talkies. I know in reality lots of silent film actors had terrible-sounding voices, or couldn't transition to a more natural style (which feels really relative by today's standards), but it seems like George just doesn't want to? Why the hell not? And are we meant to believe that this dipshit also trained this dog? Rag on the dog all you want (you're not wrong) but training animal "actors" is hard, and George is a fucking idiot.

At least the dog is cute and provided some smiles. I think the fact that people seem so bizarrely fixated on what is just another gimmick in a film that's all gimmick suggests that maybe none of the humans were worth paying any attention to and the whole thing is wildly overrated?


Monty Ashley said...

I liked The Artist, but I still wanted it to shut up. Because the theater I saw it in was blasting the soundtrack so loud I had to put my fingers in my ears to muffle it. My theory is that someone complained that they couldn't hear the dialogue, so they compensated by turning up the volume.

Adam807 said...

Thank you for mentioning the soundtrack, which I meant to cover and then forgot! Post has been edited.