19 December 2011

Tis the Season to See Movies, Hugo and The Artist are Cases in Point

“I also remembered Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, knowing way that after I
had children I would feel differently, I wouldn't want to write poems any more. So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state.” - From the Bell Jar by Sylvia Path.

Hemingway said that you start with one true statement. And that was it. Long time readers of this blog, which nowadays would appear to be myself and Gladys Kupinchenck of Akron, Ohio (Hiya Gladys, how's tricks?), are  no doubt aware that my writings have been few and far between of late. Annoyingly, I often take up space discussing the paucity of my postings.

I am so sorry.

Now is the time when Hollywood releases it's prestige films. The Oscar buzz movies. The hoi polloi are packing theaters to escape both the cold and families that are congregating in and about their living rooms. Despite my cynical tone, as a film afficiando I revel in this movie season as part of the joy of the holiday season. Seasons greetings.

There are actual good movies on the big screen and the weather is condusive to a brisk walk to the cinema and the cozy shelter of the movie house and its flickering images.

Saw a corker the other day. The Artist. It is a silent film and a love letter to another era and a beautiful one at that. Martin Scorsese's Hugo is also an ode to film history.  Saw that one recently too. Great (and even very good) art often comes from love. As much, even, as it does from suffering. Maybe more, hell I don't know. Suffice to say that art is borne of our deepest, richest feelings. And great art is elevated if it comes from a true expression of those feelings.

You'd be hard pressed to find someone who loves films as much as Scorsese. He has a reverence for the old and has spear headed efforts to restore and protect movies of yore. Hugo concerns a young lad's discovery of the pioneering French director Georges Méliès  portrayed here by Ben Kingsley. The setting is early 1930s Paris, principally at the Gare Montparnasse. Hugo is a gorgeous movie to look at, never mind the story. I suppose I should have seen it in 3D and may yet do so. In regular ole D it's quite the looker. But I was principally taken in by the story, particularly after the title character (Asa Butterfield) and his equally precocious female companion Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) happen upon a film historian who gives them a brief film study course that I wish had gone on for hours. It features scenes from some of Melies' actual films as well as from other very early film movies. So cool.

The Artist begs the question: why have there been virtually no silent films made for the past 80 years? One has to assume that it is all about the mighty dollar which in the movie world tends to pander. Charlie Chaplin stubbornly continued to make silent features years after every once else went sound. He understood that films are primarily a visual medium and that a lot of dialogue can get in the way of the story. To a far lesser extent, great directors like John Ford tried to minimize dialogue and emphasized sceneary while Bergman focused on faces. Neither one needed a lot of yakking to tell a good story.

The Artist is not done tongue and cheek and it is not a gimmicky movie. It is  the story of a silent film star whose career and life start to unravel as silents give way to talking pictures. There are plenty of laughs and much pathos and the most charming cinematic mutt since Asta. There is also a spectacular performance by lead actor Jean JuDardin. He, like his co-star Berenice Bejo, are stars of the French cinema. Director Michael Hazanavicius and much of the crew are also French, but most of the cast are Americans and the movie was filmed in the states.

If The Artist manages to be a commercial success we may see a few more silent films. This would be dandy provided they came from the spirit of story telling and not capitalizing on a fad. Hey, you never know, sometimes the studios bust out a really good film, and often they hit cinemas in December. Tis the season.

1 comment:

Tudor Queen said...

I'm still reading, Riku - and I'm glad you posted, as I do worry about you when there's a long gap. I know it's pretentious to feel as if I know you, but what I know I like, so you're stuck with my long distance caring about your welfare.

I haven't seen either Hugo or The Artist yet, but am more than eager to do so - Scorsese being one of the few directors to actually get me even marginally interested in 3-D, we're planning on seeing that one on the big screen.

I agree with you that love can inspire much of the greatest art, whether it is love of a story, a person or a form (e.g. movies).

Merry Christmas!