I went on a rare excursion to the cinema today. I don’t normally bother because there really aren’t many films that I want to see desperately enough not to wait until the come out on TV or DVD, and thus not have to endure the eardrum-shattering volume at which they must be played to drown out the rustling, chomping and chattering in the auditorium. (Of course, one’s one rustling and chomping tends not to be an issue).This movie was special though and demanded to be viewed on the big screen, albeit not in glorious Technicolour, since it was black and white. Yes, you guessed it, I went to see The Artist.
The plot is simple. It has to be for a silent movie, which needs to convey everything in action and expression. Convoluted plot lines and layers of complexity would be impossible without resorting to dialogue, so it is undemanding and yet very entertaining. You’ll have seen all the best bits in the trailers and clips from various award shows, but I’d still recommend going to see it, though I am sorry I didn’t go to see it before the awards hype. George Valentin is an engaging and charismatic main character and one can completely understand the casting of Jean Dujardin, who has something of Gene Kelly (or a young Vincent Price according to my friend) about him and suits the period well.
The irony of this ommage to ‘ollywood’s golden era is that it could not have been made by Hollywood in this day and age. I am hard pressed to think of any of the stable of Xeroxed starlets and dimensionless action heroes that populate most of Hollywood’s output being up to the task of conveying as much as in their dialogue as one of Jean Dujardin’s silent Gallic shrugs, though there are some old Hollywood troupers among the supporting cast. His co-star, Bérénice Bejo, is delightfully perky and, if you’ve seen the trailers, you probably know that the dog should have got the Oscar as he steals every scene.
Of course, it is not entirely silent in the true sense of the genre. There are totally silent bits, where I was glad there was only the two of us in the cinema (I was sucking my popcorn and barely daring to breathe it was so silent), but there is also music and an entertaining dream sequence with sound effects and…well, I won’t spoil it for you.
In all, a thoroughly enjoyable film – mute, rather than the usual dumb cinema fodder – and one that really should be seen on a big screen.
In contrast, I watched Dirk Gently last night with a certain amount of trepidation. Based on the pilot last year, I was expecting a dumbed down rendition of some of Douglas Adams’ best concepts without any of the inconvenient Sci-Fi aspects (aliens, deities, spaceships, time travel) or any challenging references to 19th Century Romantic poets or educated people. I wasn’t disappointed. Oh, it’s entertaining enough, but it just isn’t Adams and in sacrificing the small amount of Sci-Fi, they have had to lose wonderful concepts like the Electric Monk, (needless to say, invented by an alien culture) “a labour-saving device which believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.” Inspired, but sadly lost from this version of Dirk Gently’s adventures.
They sacrificed Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the premise that Bach’s music was really far more than one man could have composed in a lifetime. Oops, best remove the cultural references – brain-washed, slack-jawed TV-watching masses can not possibly cope, let’s dumb it down for them. At least they have had to retained “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things” in order for the Holistic bit of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency to make sense. They also referenced the notion (when driving) of following someone who looks as if they know where they are going – I have been using that one to get me out of traffic jams for a very long time. My bet is that this series, based on the second book, won’t have a Norse God in sight and if it does, I’ll eat Dirk gently’s hat…except they’ve lost that too. Oh well.
It is a reasonably entertaining piece of television in itself, with Steven Mangan’s spaniel-like detective more energetic than Adams’ Gauloise chain-smoking original. It’s watchable and even entertaining, but sadly it is even less Adams than that dreadful Hollywood version of Hitchhikers’. Even if you don’t like Sci-Fi or even Crime as a genre, do read the Dirk Gently books – they are only a little bit sci-fi and very much stuffed full of entertaining and original concepts and humour, not to mention being very well written.6 March 2012