Sunday, 22 January 2012

Silence is golden

In the lead up to the Oscars, films sometimes inexplicably float to the fore of public consciousness, get into the running and build up a head of steam towards the finish line. There are many deserving examples - and then there is a more select group of wholly undeserving ones (of which, the strangest recent example for me is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a truly terrible film). Of late, the black-and-white, silent picture, The Artist, has been making some impressive running - and lots of friends among critics. But is it among the deserving?

This is an unqualified no-brainer - it totally is. It's simply excellent, both as a loving homage to early Hollywood (or "Hollywoodland", as the film correctly notes), and as an exceptionally enjoyable and well-realised comedy. The homage is brilliantly done, making choice nods to Hollywood clichés - and not just the positive ones - with so many clever "lifts" from early cinema. The details are spot on, with caption cards, framing, the aspect ratio, and even the fonts studiously reproduced. And the makers use all these aspects to perfection in service of a story that's in turns extremely funny and pitch-perfectly melodramatic. And, on top of all this, it has a scene-stealing dog - though it's not the only film this year to have this.

Overall, I'll be delighted if it wins at the Oscars (though, to be fair, we've yet to see what competition it faces). Focusing, as it does, on the cinematic past, it perhaps isn't the most resonant of films, but a film that so completely satisfies on so many other levels would make for a fine winner.

Grade: A (high +3 on the Leeper Scale)

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