Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Artist

2011, U, Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman
The hype surrounding The Artist is, put simply, massive. French filmmaker Michel Hazanvicius’ love-letter to the Silent Era of cinema which has so obviously influenced his career hit the festival circuit to immediate acclaim, not to mention imminent awards recognition. The plot follows silent movie star George Valentin who struggles to adapt to the introduction of sound in cinema, his stubbornness to evolve meaning his career falls by the wayside, whilst new actress on the block Peppy Miller’s blossoms. The Artist’s heavily-scrutinised trick is that the film itself is filmed in black and white silent, the self-reflexivity ensuring this be like no other you have seen for a while. The trick is no gimmick with the lack of colour and sound never once feeling like forced art for the sake of art. In fact, The Artist manages to stand head and shoulders above the rest because of this technique, which ironically ensures its originality. In a contemporary industry that focuses on money-churning dead-behind-the-eyes blockbusters, The Artist provides the breath of fresh air that could last for a decade. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo’s central performances are two of the most charming performances in recent memory – the chemistry between the two will make you want to exclaim your delight wherever you watch – not to mention the supporting cast’s effort (John Goodman, James Cromwell).
Not content with purely reminiscing upon his favourites, Hazanavicius includes a 21st century twist that will have audiences gawping in the aisles in sheer unexpected excitement. Who needs large budget action sequences when you can have a sound technician play around with what you hear, all to emphasise fear in a character that cannot be heard. The word that springs to mind is ingenious. It is these things, plus more (three words: Uggy the dog), that stand The Artist alongside classics of the past. This will be a film spoken about in decades to come. This is a film that will deserve every award it will undoubtedly receive. This is a film that will charm generations to come, no matter how many times they decide to watch this magnificent feature. 


J. Edgar

2011, 15, Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts

There is plenty of reason to gather excitement over a Clint Eastwood feature that depicts the much-speculated life of J. Edgar Hoover, the enigmatic figure who birthed the Federal Bureau Investigation, formulated the fingerprinting database and pranced about in women’s clothing. This is a biopic on a grand scale – one where the central character is embroiled in plenty of chronicled moments of the past century in America. The Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Communism; Clint ensures these are present in some manner. But it comes as a surprise that J. Edgar, for all its might, is more interested in adding to the intense scrutiny of his private life. In between the weighty moments where Hoover (a ferociously fervent and damn impressive Leonardo DiCaprio) dictates his memoirs to a scribe, as he reflects upon his 48 years as FBI director, his unconsummated and largely unspoken homosexual feelings towards colleague Clyde Tolson (The Social Network’s Armie Hammer) are where screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) appears to be most interested. No issue, apart from the fact that plot points and character interactions proposed near the commencement of the film are flung to the wayside by the halfway point, Naomi Watt’s trusty secretary Helen Gandy a prime victim. In fact, she is given the same thing to do countless times throughout the 137 minutes running time to the point where you wonder why the hell she is still working with the man himself so many years down the line. Judi Dench manages to shed some light as to the reason why her beloved Edgar is such an enigma; in one of the darker, more memorable scenes of the film, she tells an anecdote which explicitly states her views on homosexuality. That scene – as fictional as it may be - provides enough exposition as to why our unreliable narrator is so tightly wound. One thing is for sure - he is performed to the hilt by DiCaprio. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sprightly, young J. Edgar or prosthetic-induced old age J. Edgar, Leo shows how well he deals with versatility. It’s a shame then that the film as a whole is a rather underwhelming effort, not helped by the fact that huge promise surrounded a piece that was weighed down by a poor script, structure and use of prosthetics. A wasted opportunity.