There’s a line between clever and just plain obnoxious. And #TheArtist is a looooong dive to the latter side.
And what of #TheArtist wasn’t obnoxious talk-dickery was either dully predictable or irritatingly overwroughty campy.
…and continuing on #TheArtist: if you do amplification and dickery to the level of genre parody, at least make the wretched thing funny!
And to further explain the matter, and to make this post feel more like a thing of its own: I didn’t mind The Artist being black-and-white. I didn’t mind it being a non-talkie. I would not have minded it using clever talking/non-talking tricks to be a quirky period piece.
What I minded was the cleverness of the moviemakers being ground in my face all the damn time. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the lines were about how “I SAW your movie” (O ho ho, it was a non-talkie!) and “Dear Husband, why don’t you SAY anything?” (O ho ho, because you’re the non-talkie star!) and so on and on and on. Too much of clever; not enough of subtle.
(And talking of clever, not subtle: at one point the male lead stumbles away down a street, almost gets hit by a car, and slinks away, alone and defeated. Behind him we see an establishment, a hotel or a restaurant maybe, with a honking big sign out front. The sign reads “LONELY STAR”. Because there’s a lonely star at the front of the shot, slinking away. Get it? Get it? LONELY STAR!!! Really fucking subtle, people.)
And… well, my contention is that the black-and-white period was the infancy of movies. Consequently there were a lot of things that were not done very well. Pacing dragged, or was uneven. Plotting was childish, unrealistic (in the bad way), given to melodrama and overuse of tropes and avoiding a lot of things that were taboo. It was all fresh; but it didn’t follow it was all good.
Now, as I see it, The Artist revels in all that. There’s a dog running to get help for its fallen master. There’re a lot of dramatic coincidences, a whopping amount of predictable foreshadowing and more slow suspense shots of what was fucking obvious to the modern viewers a minute ago already than I could stand. It might be charming in period movies; in this one it starts as cutesy and then moves rapidly towards annoying. When a man goes down, every single trope of classic movie downfall is trotted out: doomed vanity project, losing house, divorce, STOCK MARKET CRASH!, pawning significant belongings for booze, drunken phantoms, and the inevitable “raaar I trash everything” moment of rage: not a moment that we haven’t seen a million times before.
As per tweet number three, when you overdo something like that, when you insist on so unearthing and dressing up the corpse of a dead approach to moviemaking and insist on acting like it’s fresh, when you insist on even the fucking life-saving dog, you’d be better off doing it as a genre parody. At least then there’d be someone laughing.
Or then you could call it a “homage”, and win a coupla Oscars.
But — and here’s the caveat — I’m also of the opinion that movies are art, and there are people who are qualified to talk about that art. I’m not one of those people. Those people seem to have loved The Artist. Either they’re all high on fly agaric, or then I’m missing something. So to mangle Ebert, “Your movie sucks. And probably I do, too.”
(And though I didn’t care for the female lead, the male one, Jean Dujardin, rowr. I’m not hetero enough to not be attracted to that.)