Whether it is “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Clark Gable as the dashing Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind) or “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” (Ali MacGraw as Jennifer Cavilleri Barrett in Love Story); “My name is Bond. James Bond”  (the many suave Bond men) or “Show me the money!”  (Cuba Gooding, Jr. playing Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire)………Hollywood, to most of us has been about dialogue. Smart lines, funny lines, tragic lines, romantic lines – they have been treasured and used often enough to become a part of everyday conversation.

 

Our own Hindi filmdom is equally verbose. From “Kitney aadmi they” to “Mere paas ma hai”; from “Mogambo khush hua” to “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai”, our films have dialogues that have been immortalized and also adopted into daily speech.

 

To be honest, I love the interchange of words – the witty repartees and silly one liners, romantic nothings and irate rants, and have often wondered how people enjoyed movie watching in the era of silent films. How could all the emotions be conveyed without words being spoken? Sure, gestures and expressions work, but for 2 hours? I did see ‘Pushpak’ and thought it was a nice enough one time watch. It did not leave a long lasting impression and I would not wish to watch it again. So, I always felt we are much better off in the era of the talkies!

I was told about The Artist a few months ago. It was received extremely well at the MAMI Festival. I did not watch it at the festival and did not regret it too much. Catch me standing in queue to watch a black and white, silent film! I also had a niggling suspicion that it was overhyped because it was ‘different’! 

The Artist won some Golden Globes – Best Motion Picture, Best Actor and Best original Score. Ok, maybe it was a nice film. Then, I watched in amazement as this film swept the BAFTA’s on February 12th. Best Film – yes, Best Director – Yes, Best Actor – Yes, Best Original Screenplay – Yes, Best Original Music – Yes, Best Cinematography – Yes, Best Costume Design – Yes…….Come on British Academy, what was so so special about this film!!! 

So Sceptical Me set off to watch this much appreciated movie last night. There were pre release previews running in a few suburban theatres and we had bought tickets for a 9 pm show. I was pretty tired and hoped I would not fall asleep in the midst of the film (I have been known to do that when bored and/or tired!!). I soon discovered my fears were groundless. The Artist sucked me in from the first frame and kept me glued to the edge of my seat till the very end.

Watch The Artist if you are a romantic at heart. Watch it if you love good cinema and do not see enough of it. Watch it if you want to marvel at vision, creativity and courage. I wonder how the studios reacted when writer-director and part producer Michel Hazanavicius came up with this script! The man who ultimately produced it, Thomas Langmann was unable to attract investors to the risky project and self-financed the film, using his own money and also selling his home and borrowing money from relatives.

What words do I use to describe this film? Beautiful is too tame and trite since this goes beyond beauty. The storyline is so basic that it is almost laughable. It is a love story – simple, oft told and more oft heard. But the characters in the film are incredibly portrayed.  Every expression is perfect and this silent film manages to convey a lot more than a lot of films with dialogues. And I marvelled that I did not miss the dialogues at all! The film is so complete in itself – it does not need words. I would not have believed this to be possible, but it is. 

Who steals the show? The captivating young ingenue with stars in her eyes or the great star who enthralls thousands but slowly loses the ability to communicate with his own wife? The prosperous producer who sets the cash registers ringing each time or the faithful chauffeur who serves his master with no complaints? Or is it….Uggy!

‘Who is Uggy?’ you may well ask! Uggy, to me is the star of the film. To me, he rates at par with Jean Dujardin (George Valentin) the charmer who can steal your heart within a moment; Berenice Bejo who IS Peppy Miller (I cannot imagine anyone else fitting the role so perfectly), John Goodman (a Hollywood power broker to boot) and James Cromwell (Clifton the ever faithful). Mark my words – Uggy will steal your heart too 🙂

The Oscars are 2 days away and I have all fingers crossed for this film do win everything it has been nominated for! I do not want to say anything about the storyline since this is a film that needs to be experienced. Those who have not seen it yet, please catch it before it is ousted from the theatres by Jodi Breakers or something equally intelligent!

 

Copyright © Tara Verma February 2012

All Rights Reserved

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