I finally saw The Artist last week, having been super-keen to watch it since the reports of its frenziedly positive reception in Cannes last spring; I suppose it goes without saying that I was a bit disappointed. It certainly looked the part, but I was expecting more invention. Ironically, it may all-too-accurately reflect the rather flat, intertitle-heavy comedies which were reportedly in vogue in Hollywood not long before the introduction of sound – to such an extent that Keaton’s visually splendid, dialogue-light The General found itself dismissed as ’old-fashioned’ – rather than the more heavyweight works that have kept their place in cinema history. For instance, it’s impossible to have sat through Murnau’s The Last Laugh (which, as its director proudly pointed out, dispensed with intertitles altogether) and not to have found The Artist’s visual language a bit wanting. (And I say that as someone who isn’t even sure that he likes The Last Laugh very much.)
There’s been a fair amount of fuss about the use of parts of Bernard Herrmann’s score for Vertigo in the new film The Artist, the earlier film’s star Kim Novak* going as far as to call it a ‘rape’. But nobody seems to have mentioned that Herrmann wasn’t the only composer to be ‘quoted’ on the soundtrack: the entire sequence of Peppy going into George’s dressing room and playing out that cute little romance with his suit jacket was accompanied by part of Ginastera’s ballet music Estancia. Very nice it is, too.
* Is it my imagination, or did Mike Figgis get her to say the C-word in his underrated film Liebestraum?