Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hugo and The Artist

Faithful readers, as chief of The Bureau of Odd Shaped Objects please accept my apologies for not having posted for so long. I kept hoping I would see a great film, worth talking about, but alas, did not. Instead I'm talking about two films that are good, and well worth seeing, but not as good as their nominations for Best Film Oscars or their glowing reviews would indicate.

Michel Hazanavicius, the director of "The Artist", is a very skillful French filmmaker. Back in 2009, I recommended his spy spoof "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies", which also starred the leads of "The Artist", Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. The coup de maître of "The Artist" is that it's a silent film about an actor who can't or won't make the transition from silent films to talkies. As the actor is disintegrating, later in the film, sound effects start to creep into the track, which (of course) was only music up till then. It's very cleverly done. Bejo, Dujardin and Uggy the Jack Russell are terrific, as are the supporting actors. The director and his crew perfectly captured the look of a silent film from the 1920s.

The reason the film is not great is that the script is rather static. The hero falls into despair and then falls deeper until he's finally rescued by the heroine. It's enough of a comedy that it limits the amount of emotional interest the viewer can put in it but it's not a really funny comedy. Still it's a very interesting and odd object and well worth a look.

Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" starts out not working at all and then rallies and begins to make connections with the audience. It took a while but I eventually got caught up in the plight of the orphan boy who hides in the enormous clock of a grand Parisian train station, stealing food to survive and stealing mechanical parts so that he can repair an automaton given to him by his father. He gathers friends and also an enemy and in the end finds a new family. Bravo! And then we have even more about the film career of Georges Méliès which we've had a hell of a lot of already. Méliès is one of the great pioneers of film and his image of the moon as a face with a rocketship stuck in its eye has escaped from his film "A Trip to the Moon" and become an iconic image. It's totally admirable that Scorsese is so enthusiastic about film history and preservation but the end of the movie is functionally a "This is Your Life" for Georges Méliès. Still it's another nice looking odd shaped object.

Below is a metal fence on West 21st Street in NYC. I took the picture in 2008. It's interesting that they've reversed the image.

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