Tag Archives: The Artist

“Lights, Camera, Dujardin?”

What can’t The Artist star, Jean Dujardin do?! In this clip from Funny or Die, Dujardin struts his acting abilities for what is likely to be an onslaught of movie offers when he wins Best Actor later this month at the Academy Awards. And of course he’ll be a villian. As he demonstrates here, there really is no action movie villian too evil or too complex for this charming French gentleman to play. And I love the opening credits for this clip à la Jean-Luc Godard, Une Femme est une Femme (1961). It is how they say, “fantastique”!

“Lights, Camera, Action!”

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The Artist, Silent Cinema and De Sica

In the previous post, I discussed Scorsese’s longtime love affair with film history, notably in his latest cinematic effort , Hugo. Now, I want to shift focus to another film from 2011 that lends much (much is a tad of an understatement) of its narrative direction to cinema’s past, The Artist (the 2nd most nominated film this year with ten, one shy of Hugo‘s eleven).

The Artist has been praised by critics and fans alike for Michel Hazanavicius’s pure homage to silent film. In a period where studios are cranking out the latest overblown 3-D CGI epic, a film that is virtually silent besides an accompanying score is a bold move to say the least (and happy to report that it works well here on every level).  The Artist has been compared by many to Singin’ in the Rain, Sunset Boulevard, and Citizen Kane. These three films deal with the fragility of fame and the consequences of living under the microscope of the public to varying ends (a much more positive end result in Singin’ in the Rain than the other two) and The Artist is no exception. However, most writings that I’ve come across on The Artist fail to mention influences that extend beyond the aesthetic borders of silent film and Hollywood; notably Italian cinema.

While watching The Artist I could not help but be enthralled with how much of an uncanny resemblance it had to Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D (1952). For those of you who have seen and remember Umberto D, I’m sure you will agree with me. The relationship between the two films hit me on less of a stylistic level and more in terms of story. Not sure if there is a strong argument comparing The Artist to Italian Neorealism, although, if someone can please let me know.

Firstly, both films feature some of the best canine acting I’ve ever seen – seriously! And now that I think of it, Hugo featured a very clever canine as well named Blackie. Maybe this year’s Oscar race should have been touted as “The Year of the Dog”.  *SPOILER ALERT*

The last scene of Umberto D unfolds similarly to the moments where George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) contemplates the the ‘big sleep’ much to the surprise of his canine sidekick, Jack (Uggie) and gal pal, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Flike, the dog from Umberto D, gives such a convincing performance on-screen that you’ll be brought to tears (and if you don’t, then someone needs to check their pulse). You have witness it for yourself.  But, before you do, a little narrative context can’t hurt. And since I’m lazy and Wikipedia has done such a great job of summarzing…

“Umberto contemplates suicide by stepping on (an) electrified trolley rail until (he’s) discouraged by the fate of his dog asleep on the bed. Umberto then leaves the apartment and attempts to find a place for his dog to stay before finding where he himself will live (or die). Despite Umberto’s attempt to hide from Flike, the dog  finds Umberto hiding under a footbridge. Umberto decides to take the life of both. In desperation Umberto walks towards a train track where a train is about to pass. Umberto holds Flike and walks under the protective barrier towards the oncoming train…”

*And as I may have you know, I am man enough to admit that I actually teared up previewing this video before I posted it.*

Hope you enjoyed that little clip. If you ever get a chance to catch this film, I highly encourage you to do so.

Thought I’d share this fun little clip posted by a fellow blogger who just so happens to be a boy genius, but just don’t tell him I told you that: http://hidefsheep.blogspot.com/2012/02/short-film-friday-artist-blooper-reel.html

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Celluliod Dreams and this Year’s Oscars – Part I

It’s no surprise that two of the most nominated films this year for the 2012 Academy Awards are titles that pay a great deal of homage to the early days of narrative and silent cinema. Historically, the Oscars are known for rewarding films that display a longing for cinema’s past – Singin’ in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard come to mind. This year, Martin Scorsese’s entry in the family film genre, Hugo leads the pack with 11 nominations, slightly surpassing Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist with 10. Both are exceptional pieces of filmmaking. They excel in most facets of what makes a film ‘great’ – beautiful cinematography, charming scores, character performances and much more. Beyond this, one can’t deny their glowing fondness for the early days of filmmaking.

To be honest, when my wife and I went to see Hugo, I had no idea that the 2nd and 3rd acts would be preoccupied with what turned out to be the ‘Life and Times of George Méliès’ – the great special effects illusionist of early cinema. Not that I was complaining. It brought me back to my mornings hunched over a tabletop in a darkened lecture hall, taking very detailed notes of course, watching a cardboard rocket crash-land on what appears to be a gooey slab of cottage cheese with eyes.

Scorsese is no stranger to cinematic homage. He is after all – a ‘moviebrat’! The list is long and can be as detailed as a doctorate dissertation (Cape Fear, New York, New York, Shutter Island…), but one of Scorsese’s most famous references to cinema’s early days is the conclusion of Goodfellas. See below to see what I mean…what more do you want, I even embedded it right here for ya (that was my Joe Pesci impression if you couldn’t tell).

The important shot to note here is when Pesci’s character interjects Ray Liotta’s penetrating gaze (and narration for that matter) through the fourth wall. This shot is a reference to The Great Train Robbery (1903) by noted narrative cinema innovator, Edwin S. Porter. For film historians, discourse around this film’s significance to the history of the art form tend to narrow in on Porter’s knack for shooting action and building excitement through cross-cutting, camera movement, on-location shooting and the list goes on. If you have 10 or so minutes to kill, by the mighty powers of the interwebs, you can watch this little picture right here, and I highly encourage you to do just that. And believe it or not, I found this on Google Video and not Youtube…huh.


Part II – The Artist, Silent Cinema and De Sica

Stay Tuned!

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