Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Artist ? OSS 117 ?

0SS 117 LOST IN RIO
I loved the idea of THE ARTIST, then I saw it .... Yes its amusing and has some charming moments, but I cannot understand how it is 2011's Best Picture or Dujardin Best Actor - Berenice Bejo was just as good - but that's the power of Harvey Weinstein ....
The plot of the film has a silent movie star meeting an extra at a premiere. Meeting again the next day on a set they are both smitten as they amusingly do take after take, but he's married. As her star rises, his begins to fall since he won't move from silents to sound films. However their lives remain intertwined.... I just was not blown away by all this, Valentin the silent star is hardly an 'Artist' if he stubbornly refuses to change from silent to sound films - he is not a great visionary but just churning out what looks adventure serials, so it is hardly a hommage to the silent films of the 1920s. We get elements from SINGING IN THE RAIN and A STAR IS BORN and even SUNSET BOULEVARD and a great CITIZEN KANE hommage ... it all looks beautiful though, and yes I adore Uggie, and Dujardin captures the swagger of that Douglas Fairbanks-type matinee idol perfectly.

The first half is a marvellous pastiche of Hollywood in the 20s and that black and white photography looks great. But there seems no real story arc as we move from 1927 and into 1932, when sound was really established so Valentin seems downright stupid (not to mention clueless and arrogant) by then not to see that sound is here to stay, and his character seems pigheadly stubborn as he does not even seem to realise how much Peppy loves him. So I found the second half as clich├ęd as the silent films it pays tribute to.
Bejo as Peppy Miller is entracing, and the song and dance sequences delightful, but apart from that .. and what on earth was Malcolm McDowell doing in just 2 shots as Peppy arrives for an audition? Presumably he was meant to have more to do?
On the strength of word of mouth about THE ARTIST I went ahead and ordered Michel Hazanavicius's two earlier films with Jean Dujardin, those OSS 177 spoofs: 2006's CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES and 2009's LOST IN RIO - hopefully that will be as good as that Belmondo favourite of mine THAT MAN FROM RIO, De Broca's 1964 charmer. Reviews to follow ....
I have now seen the OSS 117 films - how come they passed us by before? Were they hits in London at the time? The LOST IN RIO one is simply perfect - as amusing as THAT MAN FROM RIO as Dujardin arrives in 1967 Rio on the trail of some Nazis - his clueless, self-regarding agent is ideal, but no Bejo here alas.
Beachside frolics in RIO
He does however make a new friend at the beach after he is fed some LSD and gets into an orgy ...
Later they go to Brasilia and the locations are ideally used, with that climax at the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio - Hitch would have loved it with the baddie danging from the statue ... and a nod to NORTH BY NORTHWEST too.
CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES
Lots of Dujardin's preening by the pool as the local beauties gasp, and he insults the Israelis, the Chinese, the Germans and his female sidekick whom he imagines is his secretary! Agent OSS 117 seems to have a secret gay side too, despite his homophobic comments, but then he insults everybody. This is delirious if low-brow fun and the Brazilian locations are marvellous too, I must share it with some friends shortly. There is surely also a nod to the original THE PINK PANTHER at the start set at Gstaad in Switzerland with that perfect 60s pastiche with lounge music and split screens.

The CAIRO NEST OF SPIES is also a perfect spoof, set in 1955 Cairo a decade after its 1945 prologue in black and white. Dujardin fits in to every period - just like 1920s Hollywood in THE ARTIST. In the CAIRO one he and Berenice Bejo are another perfect team, and it reminded me of that 1965 spy caper WHERE THE SPIES ARE where unsuspecting David Niven has to assist spies in Beirut and has to meet his secret agent contact at the airport - she turns out to be Francoise Dorleac (again, as in THAT MAN FROM RIO) (Francoise Dorleac label). We will now be looking forward to the next Dujardin epic here .... particularly after seeing those internet clips ...

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