These are the only words spoken in the new film, “The Artist.”
Yet, they summarize the feeling one gets when watching this ‘new’ silent movie. Not only is it a wonderfully expressive story, it pays homage to that era of film when the first stars and directors were becoming part of American society; when “Hollywoodland” became “Hollywood.”
The movie is set in Los Angeles in 1927 and tells the transition story of when motion pictures went from the silent era to ‘talkies.’ With that change came the public relations challenge of ‘which stars will represent the new era.’ A sort of a ‘Out with the Old; and In with the New’ change………….
In “The Artist,” actor Jean Dujardin portrays George Valentin, the most popular silent film star in America. His movies are always sold out and his popularity is at an all-time high. As his latest picture is released, the studio becomes interested in the newest invention: sound in the movies! The studio head, played perfectly by John Goodman, wants to ride with the times and capitalize on the newfound audience love—Movies that talk!
The ‘New’ in the adage is in the persona of Peppy Miller, a young dancer who plays a small part in Valentin’s latest movie, but charms both him and Goodman. She becomes the ‘star’ in the stable of new talent the studio hires for the ‘talkies.’
Berenice Bejo plays Miller well. She is just enough star-struck herself to be naïve, but has talent running out of her ears. She’s happy, beautiful and full of life………..she’s ‘peppy!’ And she learns the ropes from Valentin just in time to see his career go by the age of the dinosaurs in film terms. One of the great story lines is how Miller never forgets the help Valentin gives her at the beginning.
French director Michel Hazanavicius also wrote the plot scenes and screenplay; yes, even a silent movie needs a screenplay. He uses the great conventions of the silent film era to craft this simple, but classic story while extracting emotion from situations and gestures. Hazanavicius’ direction is enjoyable.
I have to say something about the music at this point. The movie score is vital to a silent movie. The only other way the audience knows what is happening is by seeing the actors; yet, it is the music that sets the tone and lifts emotions to the ebb and flow of the plot. This music is wonderful!
In addition to the principles, James Cromwell as Clifton; and Penelope Ann Miller as Doris are very good. Clifton is Valentin’s man servant and chauffeur; and Cromwell is well served in this role. Doris is Valentin’s put upon wife who suffers when the silent film era changes to ‘talkies’ without Valentin. She is hilarious in her part, which is limited to the first half of the film.
But the dog always steals the show! “The Artist” has one; a Jack Russell Terrier named “Uggie,” who is Valentin’s best friend. He is on the set; he is in the movies; and he sleeps with Valentin at home! The dog is very expressive and fits perfectly in a silent movie.
A small cameo appearance by Roddie McDowell can almost be missed; he has one scene with Bejo.
This PG-13 rated movie is 100 minutes long and has one disturbing image and a crude gesture. It is filmed in Black and White, which works well for the silent film. It had a $12 million budget and opened in France in October; and in America in late December.
“The Artist” is being considered for several awards and it pays homage to one of the golden eras of film much like “Hugo” did for early filmmaking. “The Artist” is visually stunning and movingly emotional. Go see it even if all you can hear is the music.
The Talking Cure
The new film, “A Dangerous Method,” is exceptionally good, but one has to be ready for such drama to gain a full understanding of the struggle between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in the early 20th Century.
The movie’s plot follows the evolution of modern psychoanalysis from Freud’s initial hypotheses to Jung’s expansion on those ideas after World War I. Yet, the drama is the intense relationship the two men had in the process. This is where “A Dangerous Method” is at its best. In a movie, it is hard to show psychological science milestones, but it is child’s play to show human relations.
The film is based on Christopher Hampton’s stage play, “The Talking Cure,” and the novel “A Most Dangerous Method” by John Kerr. It stars Michael Fassbender as Jung, the central character in the story. Fassbender is exactly what the novice would expect Jung to be: a strict clinician with an open mind for all possibilities. He is very good.
Viggo Mortensen portrays Freud with a quiet somber manner. I had pictured him as more animated, but I can see this portrayal as well. Freud was unmovable in his stance of what psychoanalysis was to be; or as it was also called, “The Talking Cure,” as the doctor ‘talked’ to the patient in order to cure him/her instead of ‘operating’ on a body part for instance. The medical science of the mind and brain was literally in its infancy in the early 1900s when Jung came on the scene.
At the heart of the two men’s struggle is Sabina Spielrein, played well by Keira Knightley, of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame. The story follows Jung’s treatment of the ‘sick’ Spielrein and his eventual ‘cure’ of her emotional condition. She is a bright woman in her own right and enrolls in medical school to continue the work using Jung’s success of Freud’s initial precepts.
It is during this treatment and med school time that Freud, representing the staunch initial ideas of psychotherapy, and Jung, who represents a broader view of what doctors can do for such patients, fight their battle as to where psychoanalysis goes. Freud says all mental issues stem from a sexual basis either normal or perverted while Jung wants to use ALL possibilities of sources to cure a person with emotional deficits.
As Fassbender puts it in the movie, “I (as Jung, the doctor) don’t want to put a toad on the other side of the door for the patient and say this is what you are. I want to show them how they can become the person they are suppose to be.”
Freud wouldn’t go that far as it included the supernatural and fortune-telling among other ‘superstitious’ doctrine. But Jung didn’t want to say a person’s emotional problem came from magic either; he simply wanted to include all possibilities in treating that patient.
The three principle actors are very good. I liked Knightley’s initial portrayal of Spielrein more than I liked her ‘cured’ version, but it was okay. Mortenson is good, but nothing special. I will put Fassbender as the best of the three; his portrayal of Jung was right on.
Vincent Cassel and Sarah Gadon also were good as Otto Gross, a nihilist proponent of psychotherapy; and Emma Jung, Carl’s wife, respectively. It has been reported that Christopher Waltz and Christian Bale were considered for the roles of Jung and Freud, but I think the producers did all right with who they had.
This 99 minute film is rated R for sexual content and brief language; and is directed by David Cronenberg (Crash). It opened in Italy in September and has two versions: English and German.
The production is wonderful as the design, scenery and costumes are extravagant just like that time period in Switzerland. The ending credits include what happened to each of these real life people.
In the end, “A Dangerous Method” shows the almost father/son relationship between Freud and Jung in the struggle to bring a new science to the world. The scientific part may be lacking, but the emotional relationships were not in this film. The actors do a terrific job of showing the emotion and what must be done to be true to the work.
Is psychoanalysis limited or is it universal? Is it connected only to sex or is it connected to all life? This movie goes a long way to show why the science evolved like it did.