A Tale of Two Tributes: THE ARTIST and HUGO

Jean Dujardin is Old Hollywood in The Artist

Critical Dissent: My case against The Artist

Any honest discussion of The Artist’s “Vertigo-gate” has been rendered irrelevant after Kim Novak’s overt theatrics have virtually swayed the public opinion to the French film’s favor. To be fair, the first half of Michel Hazanavicius’s silent film tribute is enjoyable. Actor Jean Dujardin has the looks and expressive facial muscles of a swashbuckling star of the ‘20s. The slapstick humor of a bygone era works in harmony with the dry wit of a present day comedy. And everyone likes to see puppies do cute things. But we already have YouTube for that. As much as The Artist was appealing with my nostalgia, I could not help but wonder how it was going to “pay homage” to silent cinema as it progressed. Well, it didn’t. Hazanavicius made a silent film about how a silent actor merely has to get over his pride and find a way in the new medium because silent films has become outdated—which is, by and large, historically accurate. Hazanavicius also did such a fine job with dosing the film with a saccharine version of Hollywood, chances are you’ll agree silent movies are cute— cute enough for the people of ‘20s and cute enough to you to check out The Artist before the awards season. And that’s where the interest ends.

An underrated performance by Ben Kingsley in Hugo.

Dreams From the Past: Hugo

In what starts out as a story about a boy who tries to fix an automaton left by his late father, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo pays tribute to silent cinema by the way of a 3D adventure. The digital set looks nothing like a silent movie and Scorsese’s use of the technology is decidedly a cut above from most 3D movies in the multiplex. But Scorsese, who is a prominent supporter of film preservation, unfolds a hidden plot in Hugo which recounts the magic in the origins of cinema. Perhaps audiences of the 21st century have taken for granted the fact that movies enchant us because it is an art form that catches our attention with its realism while bewitching us with its sleight of hand. What makes Hugo a touching film is Scorsese’s ability to translate his deep appreciation for cinema from a fan’s perspective to the images on the big screen as the man behind the camera, which takes as much heart as it takes skills. Though the demise of silent movies is a foregone conclusion, the moral of Hugo is strangely more relevant than ever. At a time when film is rapidly phased out by digital cinematography, the irreplaceable qualities of film and the importance of its preservation are largely met with ambivalence.

*The above is an excerpt from our Year In Review featured in the February 2012 issue.

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