Filled Under: romance

The Artist

A Silent Movie That Makes a Big Noise

Berenice Bejo

Movie goers got a huge surprise in 2011 when ‘The Artist’ hit the movie theaters. This movie did raise quite a few eyebrows because many people who went to see it had no idea that it was a silent film, but it did very well at the box office nevertheless. Where this movie scores very high is in terms of critical acclaim. This unusual movie, the winner of 3 Golden Globes, has been nominated for 12 Baftas and is also expected to make quite a killing at the Oscars.

What makes ‘The Artist’ very successful is the fact that it is basically a very simple movie. A beautiful tribute to the Hollywood’s silent era, this black-and-white film is set in the late 1920s and early 1930s in Hollywood. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, this movie follows the story of silent movie star George Valentin, played by French actor Jean Dujardin who is preoccupied with the impending death of the silent movie era which provides him with his livelihood. Around the same time he meets a young dancer Peppy Miller, played by Berenice Bejo, who is working to get her big break in show business. Their love story is what gives this movie its appeal.

Made with a budget of around $12,000,000, this movie has been a surprise hit because of its universal appeal. At the beginning of the movie, George Valentin is at the top of his game as a leading silent movie star. He is handsome and self-absorbed, much in the manner of a Hollywood God. He meets Peppy, a lively young dancer who is trying to make her way in the industry. The movie is about their improbable love affair that carries on in spite of changed circumstances that see Valentin’s career on the descendent whereas Peppy achieves the success that she is striving for. Valentin is simply not able to make the switch to talkies having been doing the same thing over and over again in his silent movies even though a studio boss often warns him to prepare for change.

Hazanavicius, who has written this movie in addition to directing it, has paid homage to many classic black-and-white films in this production. There are scenes in this film that hark back to Singin’ in the Rain, Citizen Kane and even Vertigo. Dujardin and Bejo do a wonderful job in this film and so does John Goodman who essays the role off the studio boss.
It is too much to say that ‘The Artist’ will change the way in which movies are made and that more silent films will be produced. This is definitely a one-off movie of this genre. It is not even a particularly great movie if only because Hazanavicius seems to have looked to ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘A Star is Born’ for inspiration. However, it is a very enjoyable film to watch because of the superlative acting and directing. With a few nominations under its belt, this little movie is all set to make quite a bit of noise at the Oscars.

Two Days in Paris

Pacific Design Center

Julie Delpy

Yesterday, I rented “Two Days in Paris” from Netflix.

This is a 2007 film written, directed, produced and starring Julie Delpy. Even her parents in the movie are her real parents, and her boyfriend is her real ex-boyfriend Adam Goldberg. It is an understatement that Julie impregnates the movie.

Even though this movie was well received including a nomination at the Cesar Awards, France, it only grossed around $14 million worldwide. The IMDB rating is a low 6.9/10.

Frankly, this movie is not for the general public.

OK, let us start with the story line. A young couple living in New York, she is French, he is American, visits Venice. On their way back by train from their ill-fated vacation, they spend two days in Paris in Marion’s (Julie Delpy) parent’s place. Jack (Adam Goldberg) discovers Paris as well as Marion’s parents and old friends, including many past lovers.

Culturally the interesting aspect of this movie is that the dialogues are half French (with English subtitles), half American English. The movie attempts to emphasize some of the cultural  differences between France and the United States, and succeeds to some degree. The dialogues in both tongues are of excellent quality.

For those who likes images from the City of Light, it is always nice to get reminiscences of Paris.

One of the nicest aspect of “Two days in Paris” is that it feels like two days in the life of real people, and not the fabricated adventures of some super-heroes speaking in strong short messages as is often seen nowadays. So it does not feel like a big production Hollywood type movie and it is refreshing.

The main theme of the dialogues is the constant arguing  going on in this couple. I do not remember any conversation where they agreed. It fact it reminded me of my wife and myself, so there must be some authenticity to achieve that. Not all couples are like that, in constant debate about all little and big things in life, but for the sad afflicted ones, they will recognize themselves.

Another theme that is not seen much in American movies but more so in European and French ones, is a heavy dosage of sexual allusions in the dialogues. In a party, a man starts a discussion with Jack with a reference to the way women shave their pubis in a small rectangular shape, nicknamed “ticket de metro”, i.e. subway ticket. And he says how this turns him off completely.

In another scene, Marion’s mother narrates her sexual adventures in the sixties. And it goes on and on. Her father in particular speaks in a disgusting way almost all the time.

It seems that Marion is still in contact with a myriad of ex-lovers. This adds to the sexual images and the tensions in the couple, making Jack feel even more estranged from his fiancee. This leads them to the question of knowing if they reached the love of their life or not.

There is a good dose of humor in “Two Days in Paris“. I loved all the scenes in taxis, where each time the driver demonstrated a typically French type of behavior.

The message of the movie: if you are in a couple, try to be nice to the other half.