MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By The Weinstein Company
Directed by Lee Daniels. Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey.
For some unexplained reason 2011 produced two films dedicated to the silent movies: Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist. In spite of huge acclaim from movie critics and awards committees (who have a natural passion for film history), both films are having a hard time finding an audience.
The Artist is a French film, filmed in California, featuring many American actors in supporting roles. It is also in black and white and silent, with a lovely musical score. It is a lovely homage to the time in the late 1920s when sound recording changed the fate of silent movies forever. It is a real charmer, with a lot of heart and humor, but apart from its evocation of the period – there’s really nothing much here. The movie is a mashup of themes from Singing in the Rain, A Star Is Born and Sunset Boulevard, with a bunch of in-joke references to other films from Citizen Kane to Vertigo. This information is for all of the film geeks in my readership (you know who you are).
For other Christian moviegoers, The Artist tells two parallel stories about two movie stars. George Valentin (Dujardin) is a box-office sensation appearing in swashbuckling adventure films and beloved by the masses. George has an ego big enough to love himself and he has commissioned a life-sized portrait that is one of his prized possessions. He also has a devoted Jack Russell terrier (Uggie) who he takes with him everywhere. Peppy Miller (Bejo) is a young starlet who moves to Hollywood hoping for a big break. While Peppy sings and dances her way to the top (since with sound, we now have movie musicals), George begins a downward slide that, like the Biblical figure of Zechariah, finds him unwilling to speak. And so the sin of pride can take you down.
The acting is uniformly great, with Dujardin a standout in the lead role. I found the film very entertaining, although it seems somewhat long (even at a modest hour and forty minutes) to tell a story that would have been handled by a two-reeler (40 minute) film in the good old days. I also expected a bit more comedy. The first half is pretty funny, but, midpoint, The Artist moves toward pathos (a lá Charlie Chaplin) and stays there until film’s end.
I cannot begin to understand the film’s rating; this movie is appropriate for all ages. If you have a precocious 8-year-old who enjoys watching silent movies, why not let him watch The Artist? In fact, you should go along with him so he can explain the movie to you!
Three halos: A good-natured and big-hearted tribute to silent films.
One pitchfork: One rude gesture; nothing here to offend kids, but aside from the trained dog, nothing much to entertain them, either.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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