Clocking Off

There’s a famous scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), in which we see one of the down-trodden underclass of the city working on a clock-like machine which resembles something out of a demonic gameshow. The chief task of the operator is apparently to move the hands in line with the flashing lightbulbs, which change every couple of seconds. It’s a powerful image, but it always struck me as a little contrived – surely you would just build a machine that could make the connections itself?

Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis (1927)

Well I’ve been working in offices for the last three years, and suddenly it starts to make sense. Now I find myself imagining the poor worker knocking meekly on his manager’s door after every week of punishing shift work, and presenting him with his plan for a fully automated clock-light-bulb-thing which will leave him free to do something a little less physically exhausting. Like operate the lifts. And then I imagine his manager smiling benignly and telling him that he understands that it’s not the most efficient workflow, and they would love to take his ideas on board, but that unfortunately they don’t currently have the money to invest in all the new hardware they’d like to (like flood defences, or an M-machine that doesn’t malfunction and start chewing people up), so for the time being everyone just has to pull together and get along as best they can with the current set-up.

Lang was right maaaan, the machine’s aren’t working for us…

Week-end at the Waldorf

It’s easy to see the recent Spider-man “re-boot”, just ten years on from the previous version, and upcoming re-makes of nineties films such as Total Recall and Judge Dredd as symptomatic of a decreased modern attention span and increasingly unimaginative film industry, but the truth is that Hollywood has always gone through dry spells where it’s been forced to fall back on old successes for inspiration. Shortly after WWII, while some studios were probing dark and exciting new areas with the flourishing film noir genre, and many stars were finally discovering the freedom to pursue more interesting personal projects, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the most successful studio of the pre-war years, was in a firm slump. The quality of their releases had declined as steadily as their profitability, while bureaucracy had increased and the studio lacked a central producer with the creativity that Irving Thalberg had provided in the early thirties. By the end of the decade then RKO production chief Dore Schary would streamline the bloated management structure and the continuing success of Arthur Freed’s musical unit would restore some of the studio’s prestige, but in the intervening years it’s not surprising that the executive committee should see re-makes as safe bets. Among the successes they sought to recreate in this period were Libelled Lady (1936) as Easy to Wed (1946), The Shop Around the Corner (1940) as In the Good Old Summertime (1949), and Grand Hotel (1932) as Week-end at the Waldorf (1945).

Grand Hotel (1932)

Grand Hotel (1932)

Grand Hotel was one of the studio’s biggest hits of the thirties, featuring five of their brightest stars, and a remake in the relatively creatively moribund post-war period seems somewhat ill-fated. Certainly the aforementioned Easy to Wed and In the Good Old Summertime were alarmingly pale imitations of their predecessors – in large part due to MGM’s depleted star roster. Once boasting “more stars than there were in the heavens”, their 1940s line-up resembled the kind of heavens you might glimpse through a haze of pollution in a well-lit city centre around 10.30pm. This was an era in which actors such as Keenan Wynn and Esther Williams could be asked to substitute for Spencer Tracy or Myrna Loy, or boy-next-door Van Johnson might attempt to stand-in for the sublime James Stewart. Given that Grand Hotel‘s chief claim to fame was its employment of five of MGM’s biggest stars at a time when putting more than two in one picture was generally seen as an extravagant waste of resources, it might be expected that Weekend at the Waldorf had little chance to compete.

It’s therefore somewhat surprising to discover that it’s actually rather good. The cast, while lacking the box-office clout of the originals, are universally watchable and many of the differences in studio style which may be blamed for the relative inferiority of the other remakes are the precise things which make this movie at times more enjoyable than its predecessor. Whereas In the Good Old Summertime took Ernst Lubitsch’s sensitive and beautifully observed study of life and love in the depression from The Shop Around the Corner and swapped it’s darker and more probing elements for old-time musical numbers and broad slapstick, Waldorf manages to transform some of the more overblown melodrama of Grand Hotel into engaging light comedy. The changes are symptomatic of a deep-rooted change in sensibility, as though the adaptation is faithful in the broad strokes of the plot, there is nary a detail that has not been altered in some way to lighten the tone, or provide an extra bit of comic business. There is a trade-off however – though the film is frequently more enjoyable than its predecessor, it also comes at the cost of emotional resonance.

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A Job of Work: John Ford as an Auteur

Finally got around to posting the final part of my piece on the early comedies of John Ford. As this is adapted from my undergraduate dissertation I’ve had to trim a few bits here and there which seem slightly redundant now that I no longer have to ‘prove’ anything, but on the whole it should still make interesting reading…

“I have never thought about what I was doing in terms of art… to me it was always a job of work.”
John Ford[1]

Much of John Ford’s legacy as one of the great directors rests on his reputation as an “auteur”, a director who consistently articulated the same themes and concerns throughout his entire career. His films have been subject to countless thematic analyses, some of the most famous being the auteur-structuralist readings of critics like Peter Wollen, which seek to explicate the underlying structure throughout his films, and to detail the “richness of the shifting relations between antinomies”[2]. Valuable as these insights can be, they often ignore more pragmatic explanations of a text’s workings, obscuring the social and economic context, and the practical considerations of film making in the studio era. Even in cases where such factors are taken into account, as in the Cahiers du Cinéma editors’ renowned analysis of Young Mr Lincoln,[3] the tendency is to depict them less as tangible influences on the film’s construction, and more as ideological tensions which are played out on a purely textual level, so that the meaning of the text becomes ahistorical, and these factors emerge merely as fragments of a meaning which is only rendered complete by the operations of the text itself.

In this chapter I hope to demonstrate that the usefulness of the auteur theory in analysing a film is determined by the varying influence of various historical factors, and our knowledge of the realities of the film making process. By contrasting two of Ford’s films, Up the River and The Whole Town’s Talking, I aim to show how Ford’s working methods, and particularly his involvement in the pre-production stage, make an important impact on our ability to see these films as “auteur” pieces.

Up the River (1930) had originally been planned as a gritty prison drama which would capitalise on public interest in prisons following a much reported uprising at New York’s Auburn prison that year, and the subsequent success of a Broadway play set on death row called The Last Mile. These plans were somewhat scuppered by the early release of a similar MGM project called The Big House, and Fox weren’t keen on the idea of releasing what would seem like a pale imitation. At this point, Ford, who was already on board the project, persuaded them that the picture could work as a comedy instead. Ford’s eagerness to rescue the project was no doubt due to the fact that he had already begun to cast the film, an important process of which he once said:

“with the exception of the stars who [were in the thirties] signed for parts by the studio in advance, I insist on choosing names for myself. And I spend more time on that task than on any other.”[4]

In fact, Ford was able to cast the leads in Up the River. On a scouting trip to New York he had seen The Last Mile and convinced its star, Spencer Tracy, to make what would be his first film appearance (he had been screen-tested before, but only as a character actor, and Ford persuaded Fox to try him as a leading man). While in New York he also saw Humphrey Bogart in The Skyrocket, and cast him as the romantic lead. For Ford, casting was essential in creating believable characters, and his talent for casting to type, and frequent use of the familiar faces of his ‘stock company’, were able to fill in the gaps in character backstory that were left by his dislike for expository dialogue.

In his interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, Ford claims to have rewritten the script himself, in collaboration with character comedian William Collier Sr.[5] Though not a writer himself (a fact which, according to Dudley Nichols, always drove him ‘nuts’)[6] Ford often oversaw the writing process on his films, beginning from his early western shorts with Harry Carey, when the two of them would work out the scenarios together. In 1930, Ford began a collaboration with Dudley Nichols that would last several years, and influence the way Ford worked with other writers. His typical process from that point onwards was to choose a screenwriter for the project, assign him to background research, and have him write the screenplay aboard his yacht while Ford played poker with his friends. During this time he would direct the writing process, sometimes dictating the film scene by scene, sometimes simply cutting out what he saw as superfluous dialogue to create a lean, economical style.[7]

Ford would often improvise bits of business on set – one famous ad-lib scene being Wyatt Earp balancing on his chair in My Darling Clementine. Ford allowed for a relaxed atmosphere on set, often taking advantage of ad-libs or ‘happy accidents’ to bring an air of spontaneity to the film – a tone absolutely conducive to his style of comedy. It was in this way that Victor McLaglen’s character in Wee Willie Winkie was built up, with Ford adding extra bits of business as they went along.[8] Ford also allowed actors to improvise, and Will Rogers and Stepin Fetchit would often rewrite their lines as they went along to suit their personas better.[9] This informal style meant that the actors were able to loosen up their performances, lending a more natural charm to the comedy.

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Wolf? Where?

In Universal’s The Wolf Man (1941) Lon Chaney Jr (son of the great man of a thousand faces, though he seems to have been cut out of the inheritance somewhat) gets bitten by a wolf, who it later transpires is Bela Lugosi in werewolf form. As is traditional, on the night of the next full moon, Chaney becomes a werewolf himself. The curious thing is, Bela Lugosi was actually a wolf. And Chaney doesn’t turn into a wolf. He turns into a very hairy man.

The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Man (1941)

So what can we surmise from this? Clearly the potency of the lycanthropic virus is reduced through transmission. So if we follow this on logically, Chaney’s next victim would be even less wolf-like and even more man-like than him. In fact, if you keep going down the generations then you basically end up with a slightly hairy dude. Read more…

The Acting Business: John Ford’s Star Comedies

Here’s the second part of my piece on John Ford’s early comedy films, concerned with his use of star actors.

“Leave the acting business to them that can act. All I know how to do is to throw a lariat and crack jokes.”
Will Rogers[1]

In the 1930s, John Ford was assigned to work with two of the most popular actors in America: Will Rogers and Shirley Temple.[2] Both were already well established as stars by the time Ford came to work with them, and they brought with them a certain amount of baggage in the form of audience expectation about the kind of characters they would inhabit. By examining the appeal of these stars, and the nature of the vehicles built around them, we can begin to understand the extent to which Ford utilised or modified these existing templates when directing them. This enables us to identify the ‘Fordian’ elements of these films and further illuminate his directorial style and thematic preoccupations. At the same time, the relatively high-profile status of these films helps us understand Ford’s standing in the industry at the time of making them, and the supporting casts that he built around the stars in these films also afford us an opportunity to look at the way Ford utilised stock actors in his comedy films.

Between 1933 and 1935 Ford made three pictures with Will Rogers, one of which, Doctor Bull, is most comfortably classed as a drama, and two of which, Judge Priest and Steamboat Round the Bend, are decidedly comic in tone. Will Rogers was a comic actor and satirist who had worked his way up in the business through appearances in Wild West shows and Broadway engagements such as the Ziegfeld Follies. Though a master of the lariat, it was his astute social commentary in between tricks that would bring him to fame. With his folksy but incisive witticisms, Rogers became a spokesperson for the common man, dismantling the absurdities of government with an intelligence disarmed by his half-mumbled delivery. His newspaper columns were the height of topicality, printed on the front page underneath the very headlines they made fun of, so that what “Will Rogers says” was as much a part of the news as the news itself.[3]

It is significant, then, that in his films for John Ford, Rogers was cast as a symbol of a bygone age. As Andrew Sarris notes, films such as Frank Borzage’s They Had to See Paris (1929) and Young as You Feel (1931) “elicit the richest feelings from Rogers as a creature of the here and now”.[4] Surely such a creature of modernity, a restless reporter who flew all over the world in an age when plane travel was still viewed with suspicion, had no place in Ford’s vision of a gentle, idyllic past.

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The Hunger Games and The Cabin in the Woods

Recently I caught two movies back to back at the cinema which had some interesting parallels. The Hunger Games tells the story of young people who are forced by the government to kill each other off as public spectacle, while The Cabin in the Woods concerns a group of young people who find themselves targeted in a remote location but begin to suspect that they are being manipulated by a higher power. Unfortunately the plot similarities aren’t quite as striking as the manner in which each film manages to squander an interesting premise with either unimaginative direction and lack of thematic ambition, or poor plot construction and tonal inconsistency.

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games has been much compared to Battle Royale in its premise, but whereas its Japanese counterpart was content to plunge us straight into the titular kerfuffle with a minimum of context (something along the lines of “you kids got no respect… go kill each other”), The Hunger Games spends a large part of the first hour in explaining how the games developed as a way of maintaining social order through careful rationing of hope and fear, and in introducing us to our hero, Katniss Everdeen, who will be our ticket into the games. In this long opening section we witness the process by which Katniss is compelled to volunteer for the games as an act of self-sacrifice, and becomes determined to overcome the odds and return to her family. Jennifer Lawrence manages a fine balance between strength and vulnerability in her portrayal of the character, yet the film-makers’s determination to portray Katniss as sympathetic is at the cost of the psychological and moral ambiguity that one might expect from the premise. The idea of children being groomed and displayed for an event in which they will be forced to kill each other as spectacle is an unsettling one, yet the film does little to exploit this sense of unease. We are encouraged to root for Katniss as she attempts to impress the judges and charm a fatuous audience in order to increase her chances of survival, yet there is no exploration of the cognitive dissonance that ought to accompany this – the idea of having to nurture an enthusiastic public image in preparation for an appalling act of violence. Even when the games begin the emphasis is on the visceral, with Katniss being put through a physical endurance test while the psychological implications of the situation are barely commented on, and her relationships with the other contestants are never more complicated than simply ‘friend or foe’. As Battle Royale demonstrated, it is a situation that is rife with possibilities for betrayals, tenuous alliances and crippling paranoia, but as the plot develops it seems increasingly geared towards making our protagonist’s struggle less and less complicated. After the games begin there is only one moment where the stakes actually seem to change, in the form of a sudden change of rules, yet this only serves to reduce the dramatic tension by draining any hint of fear or distrust from her relationship with Peeta. That this twist essentially propels us into the third act means that the climax is unforgivably lacking in drama.

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Just Like the Old Country: John Ford’s Silent Comedies

The Informer (1935) The Grapes of Wrath (1940) The Searchers (1956)

 Victor McLaglen, shrouded in the Dublin fog, guiltily contemplating the reward poster which looms over him; Henry Fonda, crouched in shadow, the gleam and intensity in his eyes penetrating the darkness; John Wayne standing alone in the desert, isolated by the blackness of the doorway that surrounds him. These are the images that flicker across our collective consciousness when the name of John Ford is mentioned – the poster images of the John Ford oeuvre. They testify to Ford’s talent for the lighting and composition of human subjects; for the depiction of figures whose fates are totally bound up in the plays of light and shadow that surround them, and the landscapes that dominate their world. They also give us a beauty that, if not exactly austere, certainly does not testify to Ford’s great talent for comedy.

It is a shame that so many of the films which have now become canonized as the ‘classic’ Ford pictures are so often unrepresentative of the playfulness and comic sensibilities that characterise so much of his work. His popular legacy as a director of westerns means that his comic films are often overlooked, and when they are not it is often assumed that his later comedies are more meaningful, bringing with them a more deeply ingrained sensibility. What follows is a revised and expanded version of an academic dissertation I completed a couple of years ago which attempts to demonstrate that not only are Ford’s comedies just as rich and rewarding as some of his more acclaimed works, but that the roots of the comic style he utilised in later films can be found in the very earliest years of his career.

I’m dividing the piece into three separate posts. In the first I‘ve looked at Ford’s earliest comedies, and discussed how far they were influenced by his Irish heritage. In the second I examine the star comedies that Ford made at Fox, and ask how he was able to modify their generic demands to suit his own style. In the third I will demonstrate what implications Ford’s working methods have for his status as an ‘auteur’.

Because of the critical neglect that many of these films have suffered, I have tried to evoke them not only as part of my central argument, but also as fascinating pieces in their own right. As this was originally written as a dissertation there may still be passages which seem a little too eager to prove my engagement with relevant theory, but I hope these parts, particularly my conclusion – which questions the usefulness of certain methodologies when dealing with historical films – will still prove to be interesting and thought-provoking reads.

“I feel I’m essentially a comedy director, but they won’t give me a comedy to do.”
John Ford, 1960s

At the beginning of his career, John Ford spent six years making Western programmers for Universal under the name of ‘Jack’ Ford, before signing with Fox in 1923 and adopting the name by which we now know him.[i]

With this change of name came a more diverse range of films, and as well as Westerns he began to make rural melodramas, moody experiments in expressionism, and comedies. Although the three silent comedies he made in the twenties represent the minority of his work during this period, they still provide a useful model of his comic style, introducing devices that would continue to characterize his films throughout his career. In particular, they provide strong examples of Ford’s attitude toward his Irish ancestry, and to his own brand of stereotyping. Though his two Irish comedies provide more fertile ground for analysis, it is useful to first look at Lightnin’.

As the majority of Ford’s silent work is now lost, it is difficult to say when he directed his first comedy, or indeed when he began to incorporate humour into his work. Of the films that survive, the earliest that displays any real comic tendencies is Lightnin’ (1925), an adaptation of a hit play of the same name which had begun on Broadway in 1918, becoming a box office smash and breaking the record for the longest consecutive run of a single play of all time with 1,291 performances.[ii] Eager to capitalise on this success, Fox bought the rights from producer John Golden as part of a $1 million deal that was encouraged by MPPDA president Will Hays as a means of creating clean but commercial entertainment.[iii] It was then assigned to Ford, who was fresh from the success of one of 1924′s biggest pictures, The Iron Horse, and would therefore provide capable hands for an adaptation.

The play tells the story of the ironically named “Lightnin’” Bill Jones, who is thrown out by his wife when he refuses to agree to the sale of their hotel, built on the California/Nevada state line, to protect her from swindlers. The land scam plot is similar to the kinds of stock Western stories that Ford had worked on in his days at Universal, but this time he had the added burden of adapting the comedy from a dialogue-driven play into a form suitable for a silent film. Ford had always disliked excessive dialogue,[iv] and consequently many of the jokes seem to have been lost in the process. A 1918 review of the play in The New York Times described the titular character thus:

“Is crime the subject under discussion? Lightnin’ has been a detective. Or if law comes up, Lightnin’ has been a judge. Should the conversation veer to bees, Lightnin’ is none the less at home. He drove a swarm of bees across the desert in the dead of winter, and without losing a bee.”[v]

Only the last of those conversations ever makes it into a film, and when it does it feels more like a throwaway one-liner than an attempt to deepen our understanding of the character. Lightnin’s great talent for telling tall tales seems to have been largely excised, and Ford settles with depicting him as being simply a shiftless drunk. As with Riley the Cop, the fact that the film was made in prohibition era meant that the depiction of excessive drinking, a favourite comic motif of Ford’s, could almost be used a punchline in its own right, as it now became an act of gleeful subversion.

One of the most comic scenes in the film is one in which a sheriff attempts to arrest a lawyer who is jumping back and forth across the state line, and in and out of his jurisdiction. This lengthy scene is played in one long shot, looking directly into the room, and is clearly taken wholesale from the play, as it is one of the few times that a shot feels like it has been staged from the point of view of a theatre audience. Elsewhere there are a number of visual gags which were clearly invented for the film, such as a scene involving two drunks sitting on top of a trapdoor and bouncing confusedly as someone tries to come up from beneath, a close-up of a pompous poster of J. Farrell MacDonald which cuts back to show him in the exact same pose, admiring his own image, and several cutaway shots of a pampered dog in a sweater.

In all there is perhaps just enough visual invention to compensate for any jokes which got lost in translation, a view confirmed by The New York Times review of the film:

“Mr. Ford has done a difficult job mighty well. Too much praise cannot be given for the way he has chosen his material out of the play and invented other material in keeping, and for the taste he has displayed and shrewd observation of the entertaining foibles of everyday humanity…There is plenty of real humor and genuine pathos in “Lightnin’”. If you insist on more complicated emotions, try elsewhere.”[vi]

In retrospect, this review seems remarkably astute. Throughout Ford’s career he would be consistently praised for his skill in finding small touches to illustrate character, for his keen observation of the ‘foibles of everyday humanity’, and for the way in which he used moments of humour and pathos to make up for a lack of complex characterization.

Though it may have been a portent of things to come, Lightnin’ has largely been ignored by critics and Ford biographers since, with Scott Eyman writing that “the humour seems ponderous and mostly in the subtitles.”[vii] Even Tag Gallagher’s fairly comprehensive study of Ford’s films overlooks it, and he charts Ford’s comic style as beginning a year later, with The Shamrock Handicap.[viii]

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Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Stay

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Rock And Roll is Here to Stay
Danny and the Juniors (ABC-Paramount Records, 1958)

Rock and roll is here to stay,
it will never die,
It was meant to be that way,
though I don’t know why,

I don’t care what people say,

rock and roll is here to stay

I’ve always enjoyed the cheerful naivety of this song when listened to from the vantage point of the 21st century. Danny, and his friends the Juniors, are utterly emphatic about the durability of (historically short-lived musical movement) rock ‘n’ roll, little knowing that it would be all but dead within 6 years, thanks largely to the brand new sounds bursting over the Atlantic from Britain. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty of course, but even in the lyrics there are clues that Danny and his gang of Juniors are kidding themselves just a little bit in their refusal to envision an endpoint for their musical modus operandi…

Rock and roll will always be,
I’ll dig it to the end,

It’ll go down in history,

just you wait, my friend

I shouldn’t need to point out to anybody who’s gone to school, or watched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, that history is something that’s only ever happened in the past (so far anyway), and the end typically comes when something is finishing (several times in the case of Return of the King). The glaring contradictions in this verse seem almost sweet in their naivety, until one remembers that Danny and the Juniors were actually a bunch of teenagers, and as such its highly probably that their lack of imagination is due entirely to childish stubbornness. In fact, when you start looking for it, all the signs of a belligerent youthful mind are right there in the lyrics: the refusal to accept the wisdom of others (‘I don’t care what people say‘); the aggressive lust for vindication (‘just you wait my friend‘); and the insistence that everyone yield to their own narrow worldview…

So come on,
everybody rock,

everybody rock,

everybody
rock,

everybody
rock…

Even if we are to be generous and ascribe the best intentions to Danny, and his mob of obstinate Juniors, one has to admit that the song is tempting fate a little bit – something of a musical Titanic. If that’s the case, I’m still waiting for Rihanna to release “R&B is here to stay”…

Reclaiming the Past: Hugo and The Artist

Prominently placed among the films vying for attention this awards season are two films set in the 1920s which convey a similar passion for early cinema, but which take markedly different approaches to bringing it back to the screen. Hugo is a warm-hearted children’s fantasy, and Martin Scorsese’s first film in 3D. The Artist is Michel Hazanavicius’s faithful tribute to the Hollywood silent era, and is itself silent, black and white and presented in the old Academy 1.37:1 ratio.

The Artist (2011)

The Artist (2011)

The care which Hazanavicius has taken to produce a film that could credibly have been produced in the late twenties immediately marks The Artist out as different from the rest of today’s standard cinema fare. Whereas many film-makers draw on the past for inspiration, while still attempting to make something in line with contemporary tastes, Hazanavicius seems determined to remain true to the spirit of the twenties, save for a couple of minor (yet effective) departures from the silent form. The direction is largely in keeping with the contemporary style, with plenty of visual invention and a well-judged use of long shots, rather than the medium-close-up, shot-reverse-shot style of directing that has come to characterise today’s less imaginative talking pictures, with their constant mindfulness of television broadcast. No doubt relishing the opportunity to do things the old fashioned way, the production crew have done an admirable job in recreating the look of twenties Hollywood. Cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman sourced old fashioned lenses to soften the picture and capture something of the luminescent quality of twenties cinematography, where actors seem to glow around the edges. Composer Ludovic Bource has composed a playful soundtrack which recalls some of Chaplin’s self-penned scores (save for the perhaps ill-judged inclusion of a track from Herrmann’s Vertigo, which prompted a somewhat hysterical reaction from Kim Novak). And it is all tied together with a wonderfully appealing central performance by star Jean Dujardin as dashing actor George Valentin. Consciously evoking Douglas Fairbanks (even to the point where Fairbanks’ The Mark of Zorro is passed off as one of Valentin’s old films) he has just the right air of studied playfulness, the unashamed hamminess of the character’s performance somehow adding to its charm.

The attention to detail makes it clear that the film-makers’ intention is to pay tribute to silent era, rather than to lampoon it as they could so easily have done. This sets it apart from that other great film about the last days of silent cinema, Singin’ in The Rain, which celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this year. Whereas Singin’ in the Rain looked back with irreverence at the hokier aspects of silent cinema and the more inept early talkies, eventually supplanting their archaic form with dazzling Technicolor and stunning musical numbers to illustrate cinema’s progression into something much slicker and more self-aware, The Artist steadfastly stays the course as a silent film, even when the changing world of the story provides opportunities to move on. It invites us to experience the period not as observers from a distant future, but as active participants within the very art form that has come to define this era. Instead of utilising full colour and surround sound to bring the past to life in a manner more akin to the actual reality, it instead allows us to keep hold of our preconceptions of the 1920s as a period that was always silent and monochromatic. After all, that’s the only way most of us have ever experienced it.

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