Monday, January 02, 2012

bizarre love triangle

you know those weekends when you have a really great date idea and you know who you want to ask out, then you meet another really awesome girl and you wish you could ask her out for this date, too?

that's how my cinematic love life is.
in case you haven't noticed, i'm fascinated by the tree of life. when i saw it, it was love at first sight. and not because it had flashy explosions or big gun fights. it was smart. it was insightful. and yet it was captivatingly graceful. everything about it was beautiful. and it left me wanting to be a better man. i was happy to find out that, six months later, my feelings for it were just as strong. best movie of the year.

then i started hearing about some movie called the artist. i'd heard it was silent but didn't know much beyond that. still, that was good enough for me.

yes, the artist is a silent film, but that isn't a gimmick. rather, it's like the edgar wright and simon pegg movies: not only is hot fuzz a great homage to the buddy cop genre, it's also a great buddy cop movie. not only is the artist an impeccable silent film, it's also a great film.

similar to singin' in the rain, the movie follows a silent movie star through the terrible transition into the sound era. which, if you think about it, is an ironic setting for a silent movie. and that's part of what makes the movie fun: while it looks and feels in every way like it was shot on the lot next to a murnau picture, it gently reminds us that it knows what it really is. the movie opens in a movie screening, where the audience is watching the hero being interrogated by evil scientists. "i'll never talk!" he declares in the inter titles. the orchestral music builds through the final climactic moments then ends when the movie does, leaving the screen smirkingly silent as the audience erupts into applause.

as i said, the artist is a perfectly recreated silent film. so much, in fact, that it was a little strange to see modern actors like john goodman in there. like the silent era, language was irrelevant, so the director and leads are french, while several of the supporting characters are recognizable american (and british) actors, all filmed in hollywood. the acting is broad and expressive but never lampooning or silly. the full-frame camera work is as technically and artistically advanced as it was in 1927, while the big orchestral score carries the emotion but never steals it. and the costumes, hair, and makeup are savory.

all of that would make it a remarkable exercise if that was all it was. but the filmmakers know that we still watch silents because they are good and timeless stories. and wrapped underneath the black and white images and beautiful costumes is a great love story: the big hollywood silent star, the aspiring girl. share a brief time together when she's a featured extra in one of his movies. when talkies come around he becomes antiquated. she becomes the next big thing. there's drama! excitement! danger! and romance! sitting in the theater, it's easy to understand how audiences started to fall in love with their larger than life stars 80 years ago.

this is how to fall in
love at the movies
the scene where she's looking through his dressing room and finds his tuxedo coat is the most enchanting falling in love moment i've seen since wall-e first sees e.v.e. flying around his city.

in just about any other year (2010, i'm looking back at you) this would have easily been the best movie of the year. in fact, i'm falling for it as i write this. but no, the tree of life is my true love of 2011.

still, i really want to see the artist again....


kwistin said...

if you see the artist again, tree of life might never forgive you.... ;)

thanks for explaining the both of these. it makes me quite excited to experience some good culture soon.

The Former 786 said...

I've now added both of these movies to my queue. Although I have to admit that I'm a little more excited to see The Artist than I am The Tree of Life. . .