Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo showing a lot of face in The Artist.
More fun for Oscar Week in Mannionville.
The Artist has finally turned up in theaters in these parts, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to see it before Sunday. Odd thing, though. I’ve heard almost nothing but glowing things about it, but the longer I’ve had to wait and the more glowing things I’ve heard the less I’ve wanted to see it. I think there’s a point where when you’ve heard a movie talked about a lot you begin to feel as though you’ve already seen it, several times, in a bad mood, with a headache.
The trailer has put me off a bit too. Too much face. Everybody has too much face. John Goodman, too much face. James Cromwell, too much face. Penelope Ann Miller, Berenice Bejo, the dog. Jean Dujardin, way, way too much face. The camera gets in too close and at a disconcerting angle or maybe it’s the way they’re lit. But the only person in real life who ever presents you with that much face is your dentist.
That’s just me. Word is that The Artist is likely to pick up the Oscar for Best Picture and deservedly. But Karina Longworth, film editor for LA Weekly and Village Voice media critic, thinks it’s going to win and when it does it’ll be because there might be something else behind it besides an appreciation for good movie-making fun.
The Artist, she says, tells a story about Hollywood Hollywood needs to hear about itself these days.
Like Singin' in the Rain, a film to which it's often compared, The Artist is an example of the kind of mythic history Hollywood tells about itself in order to promote its own survival in times of trouble. When Rain was released in 1952, studios were struggling to adapt to both a 1948 court order that forced the studios to give up ownership and management of movie theaters, and the growing lure of television. The Artist has been released into a similar period of transition, as celluloid technology is being replaced by digital, and theater attendance is threatened by the habits of a new generation born into an on-demand world. If the Oscars truly are Hollywood's way of telling us what it's thinking about itself, then the dominance of The Artist reflects the paranoid uncertainty of a contemporary movie industry barreling toward an uncertain future, and looking to the past for reassurance.