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The Artist (2011)

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Great review, Jeff. Your final sentences pack a wallop.

I don't recall that I've been in such a small minority on RT before.

Heh. I am still the lone voice of dissent on the Tomatometer for this film. :)

FWIW, I enjoyed the same things in The Artist that you did, and while I had reservations, they weren't quite the same as yours.

If Valentin were more sympathetic, it would bother me more that the movie doesn't give more weight to his failed marriage. As it is, I think it blames him for failing to communicate with his wife (tied into the whole silent gimmick). I saw him as a failed man, and her as a figure of pathos, not comic relief. Certainly Valentin's long downward spiral in the second half pretty much kills any remaining sympathy I had for him, and he remains pathetic right to the end, where he's saved only by Peppy's pity.

Is there an extramarital affair between Valentin and Peppy? Can I really have forgotten that? I remember that Peppy is initially star-struck by Valentin, and flirts with the idea of being romanced by him (in the cute dressing-room scene with the coat) -- and later after he, and his marriage, crash and burn, she's there to pick up the pieces. But I don't recall thinking of her as a homewrecker. Perhaps I succumbed to the movie's wool over the eyes.

Ultimately, I see the movie as more of a celebration of technique, convention and the iconography of an era in Hollywood and cinema than a celebration of the lives of its characters.

Edited by SDG

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Steve:

It's kinda implied they become smitten with each other while rehearsing "A German Affair" (that great scene where they do the same take a half-dozen times, and another great scene of her with his suit). But there's no indication, explicit or explicit, that the two have A French Affair. And certainly the back half of the film is about

her taking pity on him from afar and then their becoming screen partners.

And BTW ... I think the whole story is really an allegorical fantasy about sound films' treatment of silent films (or rather, a fantasy about what the treatment should have been). Actual marriages of actual people are of little consequence.

Edited by vjmorton

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Is there an extramarital affair between Valentin and Peppy? Can I really have forgotten that?

Do you limit "extramarital affair" to sexual activity? Because they are clearly falling in love lust infatuation.

Actual marriages of actual people are of little consequence.

So, I'm to care about the way talkies treat silents in this movie, but not the way a man treats his wife?

Edited by Overstreet

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Is there an extramarital affair between Valentin and Peppy? Can I really have forgotten that?

Do you limit "extramarital affair" to sexual activity? Because they are clearly falling in love lust infatuation.

Even if not, there's no indication either that they acted on that lust or (more importantly) that Peppy was a factor in the marriage's breakup.

Actual marriages of actual people are of little consequence.

So, I'm to care about the way talkies treat silents in this movie, but not the way a man treats his wife?

Given the lack of plausible psychology and the film's (bizarre) anti-naturalistic premise ... why not? In a film that is not about persons, terms like "man" and "wife" don't apply.

Edited by vjmorton

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Do you limit "extramarital affair" to sexual activity? Because they are clearly falling in love lust infatuation.

Even if not, there's no indication either that they acted on that lust or (more importantly) that Peppy was a factor in the marriage's breakup.

Maybe not Peppy. But perhaps the actresses he's courted before. It's not Peppy, no. It's the willingness of Valentin to enjoy flirtations of pretty women while he is still married. (His eager embrace of adoration, and the ease with which he slides into flirtation with Peppy, make it easy for me to assume he's done this before.) And if Peppy knows he's married, she's just the latest contributor to his irresponsibility.

In a film that is not about persons, terms like "man" and "wife" don't apply.

[blink]

[blink]

Look, I don't mean to go all Movieguide on this movie, but I kept looking for something or somebody or some issue to care about. If this movie was supposed to make me feel sorry for Silents, a couple of things - its plot, its characters - did plenty to distract me from that.

Edited by Overstreet

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Do you limit "extramarital affair" to sexual activity? Because they are clearly falling in love lust infatuation.

Even if not, there's no indication either that they acted on that lust or (more importantly) that Peppy was a factor in the marriage's breakup.

Maybe not Peppy. But perhaps the actresses he's courted before. It's not Peppy, no. It's the willingness of Valentin to enjoy flirtations of pretty women while he is still married. And if Peppy knows he's married, she's just the latest contributor to that.

Does the film intimate that there are any "actresses he's courted before" (or "latest contributor")? If not, I'd call this hostile eisegesis.

In a film that is not about persons, terms like "man" and "wife" don't apply.

(FTFY)

:blink:

:blink:

::ermm::

Yes. Maybe it would have been more precise to say "issues surrounding terms such as 'man' and 'wife' don't apply." But yeah ... if a movie is intentionally and obviously implausible, characterization-related things that might be important in a realistic movie (even moral issues related therein) take a back seat to whatever the stylization indicates the film is "really" about.

And Lars Von Trier ROOLZ!!!

::headbang::

Edited by vjmorton

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Is there an extramarital affair between Valentin and Peppy?

Not by my standards, there ain't.

Ultimately, I see the movie as more of a celebration of technique, convention and the iconography of an era in Hollywood and cinema than a celebration of the lives of its characters.

Yep.

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I'm as inclined to say that affairs begin in the gaze as I am to say a human life begins at conception. But we'll just have to agree to disagree.

I've revised my review to say: "...it celebrates a love-at-first-sight encounter that leads to an extramarital affair (it may not be consummated, but come on: Affairs can happen within a gaze, within a silence.)"

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I'm as inclined to say that affairs begin in the gaze as I am to say a human life begins at conception.

Naturally. But you have to have some sense of an individual's inner life before you understand what's in a gaze, and I'm not sure THE ARTIST gives us serious indication that there's anything that can be rightly referred to as an extramarital affair--consummated or otherwise--in the film.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Overstreet wrote:

: It's the willingness of Valentin to enjoy flirtations of pretty women while he is still married.

I really can't fault a movie star -- or anyone else who lives for the public -- for "enjoying flirtations". I mean, within reason, at any rate.

: I'm as inclined to say that affairs begin in the gaze as I am to say a human life begins at conception.

And when two embryos fuse into a single embryo (producing people who have two different sets of DNA within their bodies), is one human life snuffed out, or... or...

If things are still so in-flux and fundamentally undecided at conception, they can certainly be in-flux and undecided at the gaze.

vjmorton wrote:

: Does the film intimate that there are any "actresses he's courted before" (or "latest contributor")? If not, I'd call this hostile eisegesis.

Agreed. And I'd never heard that term ("hostile eisegesis") before -- your coinage, or...?

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: It's the willingness of Valentin to enjoy flirtations of pretty women while he is still married.

I really can't fault a movie star -- or anyone else who lives for the public -- for "enjoying flirtations". I mean, within reason, at any rate.

Well, "enjoying" is only a function of concupiscence, less a matter of fault than of shame. It's the "flirtations" themselves (on the part of a spouse, or someone flirting with a spouse, to the extent that there is a moral act) that are culpable. I think Valentin's level of unresisted, open distraction with Peppy can be called culpable flirtation, or infatuation, and I think he can be faulted for it, as the flip side of his passivity regarding his crumbling marriage.

: I'm as inclined to say that affairs begin in the gaze as I am to say a human life begins at conception.

And when two embryos fuse into a single embryo (producing people who have two different sets of DNA within their bodies), is one human life snuffed out, or... or...

If things are still so in-flux and fundamentally undecided at conception, they can certainly be in-flux and undecided at the gaze.

Good heavens.

I certainly don't think anything is "undecided at conception" (was the Person of Jesus "undecided" at His conception? and yes, I have no hesitation in affirming that when two embryos fuse, a life is lost, just as a life is lost with every miscarriage, and even with every embryo that fails to implant).

As for the "gaze," well, we have it on our Lord's own authority that some gazes are as bad as adultery itself. But not every less-than-innocent gaze.

And even when a gaze amounts to adultery of the heart, I don't think I would use the phrase "extramarital affair," which implies a mutual, shared infidelity. I might possibly use that phrase for full-blown "emotional adultery," in which a man and woman become emotionally intimate in a way that belongs only to those pledged to one another, and are lovers in all but flesh. But where there is only flirtation, infatuation, distraction, perhaps even desire, "extramarital affair" still seems to me potentially upping the ante.

Edited by SDG

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SDG wrote:

: I think Valentin's level of unresisted, open distraction with Peppy can be called culpable flirtation, or infatuation, and I think he can be faulted for it, as the flip side of his passivity regarding his crumbling marriage.

Possibly. I'd have to see the movie again (it's been a few months) before I could get into the details here.

: . . . was the Person of Jesus "undecided" at His conception? . . .

Well, let's just say that if an angel announces that you are going to bear God's son -- and without the usual biological benefit of a human father's 23 chromosomes -- odds are you probably won't have a miscarriage, nor will the embryo suffer any of these OTHER complications. The "in-flux and undecided" element is kind of removed from the equation there.

: . . . and yes, I have no hesitation in affirming that when two embryos fuse, a life is lost . . .

Or we could say that TWO lives are lost and that another life is CREATED. (Paging Tuvix...)

: As for the "gaze," well, we have it on our Lord's own authority that some gazes are as bad as adultery itself. But not every less-than-innocent gaze.

Not every, no.

: And even when a gaze amounts to adultery of the heart, I don't think I would use the phrase "extramarital affair," which implies a mutual, shared infidelity.

Agreed.

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: As for the "gaze," well, we have it on our Lord's own authority that some gazes are as bad as adultery itself. But not every less-than-innocent gaze.

Not every, no.

Which, FWIW, is a limitation in the analogy, since conception is conception, and a human life is a human life, whereas a lustful gaze may fall anywhere on a wide spectrum of moral significance.

: . . . and yes, I have no hesitation in affirming that when two embryos fuse, a life is lost . . .

Or we could say that TWO lives are lost and that another life is CREATED. (Paging Tuvix...)

BTW, any documentation of this happening? I mentioned it last night to Suz, RN, and she was skeptical that a person could have two sets of DNA.

Edited by SDG

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Heh. I am still the lone voice of dissent on the Tomatometer for this film. :)

.....and this one as well. ;)

Ha. True, but there are a lot more reviews for the other one, which makes the contrast more striking.

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SDG wrote:

: BTW, any documentation of this happening? I mentioned it last night to Suz, RN, and she was skeptical that a person could have two sets of DNA.

Yep. And yep:

Take Karen Keegan, who discovered her chimera-ness at age 52. When Keegan needed a kidney transplant, she and her two adult children underwent DNA testing to figure out which kid's kidney would be the best match for mom. Surprisingly, the tests showed neither. In fact, according to DNA, Keegan's children weren't her children at all. The case confounded doctors for more than two years until, in 2000, the docs finally realized that Keegan's blood cells carried different genes from the cells in her ovaries---the long-absorbed twin was found.

Oh, and yep:

Lydia Fairchild was pregnant with her third child when she and the father of her children, Jamie Townsend, separated. When Fairchild applied for welfare support in 2002, she was requested to provide DNA evidence that Townsend was the father of her children. While the results showed Townsend was certainly the father of the children, the DNA tests indicated that she was not their mother.

This resulted in Fairchild's being taken to court for fraud for claiming benefit for other people's children or taking part in a surrogacy scam. Hospital records of her prior births were disregarded. Prosecutors called for her two children to be taken into care. As time came for her to give birth to her third child, the judge ordered a witness be present at the birth. This witness was to ensure that blood samples were immediately taken from both the child and Fairchild. Two weeks later, DNA tests indicated that she was not the mother of that child either.

A breakthrough came when a lawyer for the prosecution found an article[2] in the New England Journal of Medicine about a similar case that had happened in Boston, and realised that Fairchild's case might also be caused by chimerism. . . .

Fairchild's prosecutors suggested this possibility to her lawyers, who arranged further testing. As in Keegan's case, DNA samples were taken from members of the extended family. The DNA of Fairchild's children matched that of Fairchild's mother to the extent expected of a grandmother. They also found that, although the DNA in Fairchild's skin and hair did not match her children's, the DNA from a cervical smear test did match. Fairchild was carrying two different sets of DNA, the defining characteristic of a chimera.

FWIW, I first heard about this phenomenon when Amanda mentioned it in one of the earlier incarnations of A&F about a decade ago (back in the Novogate days), but I can't find the exact thread right now.

I'm actually kind of surprised that Suz has never heard of this phenomenon.

Oh, and consider that chimerism is only detectable when FRATERNAL twins merge into a single embryo. If an embryo separates into two embryos, producing IDENTICAL twins, and then the identical twins re-combine into a single embryo, no one would know that the one embryo had ever been two.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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WARNING: Veering off topic ... also SPOILERS for a few 50/80-year-old movies (but really, folks, c'mon ... I'm not gonna spoiler-tag em. Statute of limitations has passed.)

Heh. I am still the lone voice of dissent on the Tomatometer for this film. :)

.....and this one as well. ;)

Ha. True, but there are a lot more reviews for the other one, which makes the contrast more striking.

I like HIS GIRL FRIDAY more than you do, Steve, and I really don't care that neither Walter nor Hildy are moral exemplars (though I would say they ARE likeable enough for a comedy's purposes, in the way that rogues with flair can be likeable; see also Bill Clinton, Max Bialystock).

But the reason this is not an all-time favorite for me is the suicide of Molly Malloy. (That's also in Hecht's play and the 1931 and 1974 films, FWIW.) It's a total tone-breaker. In a discussion with Catholic blogger Eve Tushnet at my site a couple years ago, she and I discussed that film and SOME LIKE IT HOT. Her first, then me, then back to her:

----------------------

Totally agree re: suicide. Actually the “capital punishment as macguffin” aspect of HGF made the whole movie curdle for me. It’s used so blatantly as a plot device that it _can’t_ be gallows-humor, so it just feels coarse to me. Weirdly, I think my reaction to HGF is sort of parallel to my reaction to MEAN GIRLS–a lot of the pieces and lines are terrific, but the way characters and situations get _used_ feels cheap.

----------------------

I saw another classic farce today which has two scenes where gangsters are mowed down en masse, but that didn’t bother me one little bit. The key difference is that SOME LIKE IT HOT didn’t attempt to milk either scene for pathos (or gore fetish) and never used the gangsters as a kind of moral center to the movie the way FRIDAY had two scenes where Molly Malloy is made out to be a kind of moral center — her scene with Earl alone and her spitting rage at the newsmen. You can’t kill off a character like that in a screwball farce.

But see … that’s precisely why the capital punishment angle doesn’t bother me — it IS only a Maguffin, and hence not much emotion is invested in it and there’s no violation of the film’s tone or the viewer’s emotions. Also FWIW, the Maguffin ends happily within its own terms (not that this matters too much to the film overall).

----------------------

Yeah–I’m honestly not entirely sure why the mob-fleeing works (for me) as comedic setting and the death-penalty stuff doesn’t. I think it’s mostly because the ongoing danger in SLIH threatens the protagonists, not essentially cardboard characters. So while I take your point that the gangsters who get killed at the beginning, setting the plot in motion, ARE treated in a macguffiny way, there isn’t the same ongoing sense that the characters we like are treating the personal tragedies of characters we don’t really know with insouciance.

Or you could argue that I just really love SLIH and am willing to make excuses for it! But this “other people’s pain is the excuse for our shtik and/or heroism” seems to me to be fairly common to newspaper movies–I seem to recall that THE PAPER did it, for example, possibly with a race riot or racial killing which existed to provide drama for the white protagonists?? or am I confusing two movies?–and it’s more or less the only way to make me dislike a newspaper movie.

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Saw this tonight. For me, this is one of the most over-hyped (though not here at A&F) and least deserving films to be considered for a Best Picture nomination (let alone possible win) since Slumdog Millionaire. It has some charm... the dog... but the accolades this film is garnering really seem over the top.

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Ok. I've not read any full reviews, and I've skimmed the first couple of thread pages a bit. I saw THE ARTIST tonight, and my first thought right now is to feel sorry for the film in a way. I wish it was not saddled with so much praise/expectation/buzz. I wish my first thought after the film wasn't "that's the frontrunner for best picture?" I wish it was just appreciation for what it is--a charming, flawed little film.

Jeffrey, I haven't read your review, but when you say that it "takes things too lightly," I wonder if you're referring, in part at least, to the failed marriage? I know that thought stayed with me nearly the whole film. I expected something more when, after the newspaper montage about "talkies," his wife pleaded with him that they needed to talk. But, in the end, the subject of his failed marriage was unimportant. This bothered me, I admit.

And I agree with SDG about the prolonged melancholy. Great images, but kept waiting for the next act.

For me, if it really does come down to The Artist and Hugo 3D, give me Hugo!

It really is interesting how central the theme of nostalgia is this year among the nominees--between THE ARTIST, HUGO, and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. I even used the phrase "nostalgia for the absolute" in a description of THE TREE OF LIFE.

Edited by Nicholas

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Annnd I see the subsequent discussion about the failed marriage. :)

On the one hand, this is the trouble with not living in a city. Most of the good conversation has been had by the time I get the chance to see many of the good movies discussed on this board. Couple that with my tendency to agree with several thoughtful folks at this board and I recognize how redundant I sound most of the time!

Edited by Nicholas

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Saw this tonight. For me, this is one of the most over-hyped (though not here at A&F) and least deserving films to be considered for a Best Picture nomination (let alone possible win) since Slumdog Millionaire. It has some charm... the dog... but the accolades this film is garnering really seem over the top.

Most over-hyped Oscar movie in three whole years? tongue.gif

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I finally got a chance to see this today. I thought the dream sequence was brilliant, but then it turned out to be the only surprising or unexpected thing in the whole movie. I get that The Artist is an homage to everything, but following that template so closely left me feeling bored for several stretches.

I also think the silent movie aspect works against the film in a way: Since we don't get to hear Valentin's voice until the last moment of the movie his refusal to star in a "talkie" came off as him acting prideful and stubborn instead of being born from a genuine problem.

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Elijah Davidson, Reel Spirituality:

The time between the end of the silent era and the advent of sound has been better explored in Singing in the Rain. The territories of fame and obscurity have been better surveyed in Sunset Boulevard. Granted, just because a narrative space has been well-traveled doesn't mean it is not worthy of further traversing, but the character arcs in those other two much better films are more true. The characters in The Artist are rewarded for that same desire for fame which dooms the characters in Sunset Boulevard, and their affections are sparked in adultery and seem more like obsession than the more innocent love displayed in Singing in the Rain.

Furthermore, if a silent film is a film that relies on music and image to convey meaning instead of dialog, I have seen better (mostly) silent films this year. Drive is almost nothing but music and image, and Hugo is a better homage to the pre-talkie masters.

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I thought of the same comparisons.

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I could be wrong, but I suspect that this film would probably be more liked (and considered more innocent) around here if it had never been nominated for Best Picture. In fact, if it had ended up being ignored, I bet it would have been on more Top 2011 lists than it is now (being so incredibly hyped as it now is). I finally get to see this for the first time next week.

On another note, for more fun: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio are now both on Netflix Instant viewing.

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