I went along to The Artist the other night with some friends, and as it’s probably about to win Best Picture at the Oscars I should post my thumbnail review.

It was enjoyable enough, and a skilful execution of its premise, but I couldn’t help feeling it could have been so much more. There’s a moment halfway through when it starts to play with form in a way that suggests it’s about to break out of its silent setting, much like the excellent Pleasantville did with colour, but instead it retreats from it and settles for something more routine. The two leads were terrific, but ultimately they were playing out a fairly simple romance, which would have played well in 1931 but seems pretty insipid now. That said, a few key scenes featured some fine imagery (the coat; the staircase), and there’s something reassuring in knowing that a black-and-white silent(-ish) movie can still find a large audience in the 21st century.

When I was outlining the premise to Jane afterwards she pointed out what I realised had also been bugging me: it was basically a variation on Singin’ in the Rain. Even George Valentin’s co-star in the opening scenes looked like Jean Hagen playing Lina Lamont.

So, a good movie, but best picture? Really? But then, what’s it up against? I’m so out of the loop these days. Mind you, when you look at the breakdown of Academy voters it’s hard not to feel like the cutting edge of movie criticism, just by virtue of not being over sixty.

26 February 2012 · Film