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December 12, 2011


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Phil Freeman

Haven't seen this yet - it's unlikely to reach the NJ multiplex where I do my flick-viewin'. But both of the OSS 117 movies made me laugh my ass off (something only the first Austin Powers managed); hell, Dujardin makes me laugh just looking at him. He's got a fantastic comic face. And I've never seen Vertigo. So maybe I'm the kinda uncouth barbarian for whom this is ideally suited.


Didn't A Christmas Tale also use the Vertigo score? I remember Deneuve in a museum, as some sort of combined homage to Vertigo and Dressed to Kill. Is the use of the score blasphemous, or is it just the use to which the film put it? With a newborn keeping me away from the multiplex, I might have to wait for this one On Demand, but thanks for the warning.

Glenn Kenny

As I said, Joel, I'm not an overly religious man, and I'm all for creative recycling; not to use a too-obvious example, but I thought the way Scorsese dropped pieces of Georges Delerue's score for "Contempt" into "Casino" was both audacious an apt. As for the Desplechin, the "Vertigo" score was meant to be recognized as such. In "The Artist" it's not crucial, because the lift is entirely banal: it's meant to jolt the film into an emotional register that the actual on-screen images don't much justify.


Although I think you meant the Hope/Crosby spy spoof ROAD TO HONG KONG I nevertheless appreciate the FERRY TO HONG KONG reference. I I have fond memories of watching Orson Welles' hammy performace in this pot boiler years and years ago.


Watching the trailer, I noted to my girlfriend that it looked like the color had simply been removed from the film, rather than shot in black and white. Then I read an interview with the director, and, well:

AVC: Were there challenges in making The Artist look like a silent movie using modern technology?
MH: It’s not a big deal. It’s not a technical challenge; the challenge is in the conception. But what people usually do when they make a period movie is recreate what they are shooting, but they aren’t recreating the way they’re shooting. What I’ve done here is, I recreate as well the way to shoot it. So it’s a very classical way of shooting. There’s no Steadicam, for example.
AVC: You shot the film in color; were the dailies in color?
MH: The dailies were in black in white. In fact, the monitor on set was in black and white!

Er, nice job, buddy. Maybe next time consider it a challenge, bc it is. It looks esp weak coming on the heels of a recent screening of Purple Rose of Cairo.

Glenn Kenny

@ haice: No, I absolutely meant "Ferry to Hong Kong." There's a definite generic resemblance between the '50s-'60s Euro B-espionage film and the picaresque "international" adventure of which "Ferry" is a pretty amusing example.

Hollis Lime

Almost no movie is shot in black and white any more. They DI it, which is just far more practical, especially for a low budget movie such as this. Maybe the DI isn't handled as well as it should be like in, say, The White Ribbon or The Man Who Wasn't There (I haven't seen the film yet), but I don't think it's fair to criticize Hazanavicius for not fighting against a tide, technologically speaking.


THANK YOU. It's not a terrible movie, but what was the NYFCC smoking when they piled on the accolades?

I was really looking forward to it, but it was such a massive disappointment and more cloying than delightful (which seems to be the most popular adjective for this film). It was kind of grating how many times they'd cut to a reaction shot of an extra (or a theater audience) looking entertained at someone's antics - it felt like the visual equivalent of a laugh track. A shame because some of those moments were actually amusing, but for me, less so when they were cut like this.

There was one brilliant moment that I thoroughly enjoyed - I can't give it away, but people may know it when they see it because personally, I thought it was so much better than the rest of the movie. It suggested a different, insanely brilliant picture that could've been made using the same raw material, but I was incredibly disappointed when a minute or two later, it was clear it wouldn't come to pass.


Apropos of absolutely nothing...

Shanghai Express to Region 1 DVD in February. FINALLY.


Hollis--If White Ribbon and Man Who Wasn't There use the same process, then he should really be embarrased. Interesting to know, thank you. I think it would have been cool if he had made some sort of optical off of a print for a dupey effect (go ahead and correct my terminology), but I suppose there are limits to what is commercially feasible.


The OSS films reminded me far more of the British Stella Artois beer adverts spoofing French films ("Triple filtree for a smooth outcome") than of any actual existing films. The worrying thing about that was that usually when you see an advert taking material from a film you usually expect the film itself to have had somewhat more imagination. In the OSS cases I usually just wished I was watching the beer commerical rip-offs instead - at least their brevity meant that they did not outstay their welcome.

I'm expecting the next rash of adverts to be in the vein of The Artist now.

David Ehrenstein

"The Artist" is what people who know next to nothing about silent cinema think about silent cinema.

"it's all dumb show" says Cathy Selden (the great Debbie Reynolds) in "Singin' in the Rain" and then proceeds to mime broad gestures. Hazanavicius acts as id that's what silent films actualy did. Anyone who has ver seen L'Herbier's "L'Argent," Ozu's "I Was Born But. . ," Chaplin's "City Lights," Griffth's "Broken Blossoms," Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc," Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin," or Guy Maddin's "Brand Upon the Brain!"(and I'm deliberately picking titles right off the top of my head) knows this isn't true.

I wonder if Hazanavicius is aware of "Show People," directed by King Vidor and starring the great Marion Davies. It's a bout a girl brekaing into Hollywood and becoming a star and features any number of Big Names in cameos. That the character she palys acts broadly before the camera in the films within this film is part of the joke.

The success of "The Artist" with New York critics astounds me. Just shows how provincial New York is these days.


And since you seemed to have missed my implied point, I'll try and be a little clearer--it doesn't look like a black and white film; it looks like a film shot only with color in mind whose color was then removed with a flip of the switch. The fact that he felt there was no challenge involved reflects the indifference I feel the final product reflects. So that was what I was getting at, sorry...

That Fuzzy Bastard

I had originally heard that THE MAN (quite possibly my favorite Coen movie) was shock on b/w title stock. But a spin around the web suggests that nope, it really was shot on color and transferred, though one expects Roger Deakins to take more care with the transfer than, well, anybody.

David Ehrenstein

Well black and white films are shot on color stock these days. Often this makes for great visual richness eg. "Under the Cherry Moon," "Separation."

But not this time.


David raises an excellent point. I was surprised when some press material said that "in writing and directing The Artist, [Hazanavicius] studied F. W. Murnau classics like Sunrise and City Girl; King Vidor's The Crowd; and works by Fritz Lang, Tod Browning, and Erich von Stroheim—all to rediscover the language of silent filmmaking." I didn't get that impression at all.

The film seems even less impressive when you consider the first half of "Wall•E" or the prologue in "Up" - the filmmakers at Pixar have a much better sense of that "language of silent filmmaking."


I haven't seen THE ARTIST, though what you say does suggest that this is not the foreign film that makes up for Mirimax making THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES widely unavailable. Speaking about Kiarostami have all the critics and critics' groups forgotten CERTIFIED COPY? Was it released too early this year? Do they think it's last year's movie? Is Meryl Streep in THE IRON LADY so obviously superior to Juliette Binoche? I see San Francisco has given CERTIFIED its best foreign language film.


Not only was 'The Man Who Wasn't There' shot on colour stock, there was even a foreign DVD release that included the colour version:



@Partisan, I think its unfortunate release schedule was probably a factor. (FWIW, I think Glenn may have included it on his 2010 list.) It seems kind of ridiculous that the film was available overseas on DVD last December when the film didn't open here until March, and even then it only made it to something like 5 screens at any given time.


Agh, nm, I was wrong.


The wife wants to see this but there just seems to be something about it that rubs me the wrong way. Too cute by half is the feeling I get from it and I'm glad to see I'm not just being a Grinch.

I thought the Austin Powers films were more like spoofs of In Like Flint and Modesty Blaise which themselves are spoofs of course.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Glenn, I'm delighted to discover, at long last, that there's someone else who's as bothered by the use of the Herrmann music as I was (and am); and coincidentally,
your objections were posted at approximately the same time as mine (at http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?cat=9).


I share Glenn and Jonathan's disdain for THE ARTIST's use of the VERTIGO score, but I wonder if there are any purists who are equally angered by Guy Maddin's appropriation of silent cinema to express sexual fantasies that couldn't have made explicitly by Murnau or Eisenstein.

Glenn Kenny

@ Jonathan: That's a great post overall, although unlike you I admire Scorsese's use of the Delerue music, as I said; but I think there's a metatextual context there that justifies it. No such thing exists in "The Artist." Hearing the music had a very distinct ill effect on me; my poor wife (to adopt Herman Mankiewicz's phrase) could feel me squirming next to her.

@Steve: I can't say I'm flummoxed by what Guy does, and I don't know any silent movie purists who are. I don't think silent cinema itself can be "appropriated," and I think Maddin's dialogue-less material is more apt and interesting than, for instance, that dreadful Peter Sellars "Caligari" pastiche of many years back. Of course I'm also kind of a perv, and Guy's taste in screen sirens runs to my own. But I could also say that about most of the silent film purists I know!

David Dolan

I fell for all of the critical huzzahs as I was really looking forward to seeing it. I finally saw it this weekend and your reaction pretty much sums up what I felt. I called someone immediately after and said that at times it was amusing but I couldn't figure out all of the critical hullabaloo. It was trying too hard and as a result came off like a well meaning but annoying relative who keeps telling you to "Just smile...Where's your smile?".
It wasn't very original either so it wasn't really like a new twist on an old theme. As an earlier commenter noted there is a brief moment in the film where I thought it was going to take off but the scene ended far too quickly and it went back to being a genial but ultimately disappointing film certainly not worthy of all the high praise it has received.


I didn't see either of the OSS movies, so I don't know how they worked. I liked THE ARTIST, but I also don't see what all the fuss is about; as far as movies capturing the magic of silent films and paying homage to them, HUGO has this beat in spades. Also, one thing that bugged me about Hazanavicius is how he's said in interviews that silent films were essentially sexless. Uh, no.


I adored the OSS movies and am salivating for this one.

As for VERTIGO: this shouldn't be a total surprise. Hazanavicius used a faux VERTIGO cue at the climax of LOST IN RIO, so I assume here he could afford the real thing.

I also understand that the black-and-white image is "purer" in digital than on 35mm.

And thanks so much for the nice plug for Larry and the Lost Skeleton!

Bill Sorochan

Will watch the restored Greed and London After Midnight instead.


"none of the films quite make it at the level of pastiche to which they aspire. Yeah, you got me: I"m one of those jerks who bitched that Austin Powers, International Man Of Mystery didn't LOOK enough like a real Bond picture."

Didn't notice you complaining that the new Muppets movie looked/felt/played more like a Muppets guest-starring Glee episode than, well, a Muppets movie. By the way, I have some ignorant Tarkovsky-bashing for you! Here is a hipster dating column of sorts on a women's site called The Hairpin. A girl writes in to complain that her boyfriend is a vicious snob. Tarkovsky is not mentioned in her question, but we are told that he "reads reviews by many critics online of various indie/foreign/art films." What a drag! Well, our advice columnist, who goes by the pseudonym "A Dude," brings up Solaris himself, replying in part that:

This is about a person with a tragic sense of inferiority taking it out on strangers via their cultural preferences and his lover via emotional cruelty. He may feel genuine regret when the tears start flowing, but if he is smart enough to trick people into thinking that he actually enjoys Tarkovsky (I mean, have you seen the original Solaris? It may have amazing moments and aesthetic value, but IT IS SO BORING) he is smart enough to know what he’s doing.



Her boyfriend may very well be a "vicious snob," but if she's going to that guy for advice, he real problem is investing too much in smug assholes.

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