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Monday, May 21, 2012

"The Artist", is recreation an art?

The Artist

And finally, I was able to watch "The Artist", the great success of the 2012's Oscars Ceremony, and outstandingly acclaimed by a majority of critics. Undeservedly, in my opinion.

"The Artist" brings, again, an interesting debate to the table. Is recreation an art? Because that's what this film is. A stunning, really well done and packed one if you want, but still a mere recreation. Its not the first time I'm writing this. "Drive" was an hyper-cool recreation of noir 80s film. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" another one, this time with the 70s spy-films. Cinema is exploiting this to a horrid extent, showing without any shame their despicable lack of ideas. How many remakes have you seen in the last 10 years?

Recreations are not only a matter of cinema, though. Think on music, for example. Garage, soul, r&b, nowadays the 90s' indie, they are/have been on top of the "trend"... How many bands have tried to sound like The Strokes debut? Like Belle and Sebastian? Like Pavement? It's even understandable, simple to understand why. Younger generations "weren't there" when these bands existed or where on their "highest peak", and is always easier to "connect" with a band you can watch or follow while you grow up. Everyone has one to fall for. I openly admit mine is falling, or at least paying attention, to any band that resembles a bit to Joy Division. But let's go back to movies, where the technical advances makes the recreation even more attractive, with new possibilities. No wonder why producers are eager to put their money on a "remake" or a film devoted to recreate a particular style. There's way less financial risk, in their heads at least. But aren't we missing what made movies, or music, relevant? Aren't we missing the content?

"The Artist" is not a bad film. It's wonderfully presented, and in that sense, all the technical awards are more than welcomed. In my opinion, director Michel Hazanavicius did a great job in his attempt of create an engaging "game" of references: "Citizen Kane", "A Star is Born", "Sunset Boulevard", the "Vertigo" score, the "cute" dog like Chaplin's, the musicals... I already said it, the recreation part is superb. As a referential, nostalgic exercise, "The Artist" is outstanding. But as a film in its own, its seriously flawed, a really shallow one. It uses a gimmick, in this case doing a film, entirely, like a silent one, as a excuse for not working on the plot. And a gimmick can't stand being used for almost 100 minutes, not even if you are telling the story of a silent movie star.  

Ok, so "The Artist" cannot be judged within the terms of contemporary movies because its an homage of silent cinema, and its struggle against the apparition of sound. Well, if that's the case, thanks progress from bringing us the sound. How silly was silent cinema if "The Artist" is such an unforgettable rendition of that era. Were silent movies that superficial? Because in here there's a huge lack of depth in the script, in particular with their characters. Something to be blamed for, considering the premise.

This is the story of Gene Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin. He is great as the caricature of a silent movie actor, with constant overly exaggerated facial expressions and "mugs" for the camera to get their point across. But is just that: a caricature. He's not the one to blame for, but he does nothing to save his character from being unidimensional. Its success, unrealized love affair, struggle against progress in cinema, utter desperation, etc, is completely unrealistic, seems Hazanavicius just wanted to include drama, comedy and romance for the sake of it (again, if that's part of the homage, he's doing little favour to the silent cinema era). Just a matter of whether the spectator find this amusing enough to not care about the fact there's no information regarding the plot, zero development regarding characters, and that he/she would be the only responsible to add/include any meaning to the actions of the main actors.

So, if you are looking for a nostalgic but contemporary, lush and technically flawless recreation of the silent cinema era, "The Artist" will please you. Granted. But if you are looking for a sounding, solid film that basically tells an interesting story... look somewhere else. "The Artist" is empty, leaving aside how it looks. And cinema shouldn't be empty, I believe.

SCORE: 5/10

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