Monday, 16 January 2012

The dawn of cinema

2012 New Year Resolution

In my round up of 2011 I stated that I wanted to see more films this year. Last year I only saw 4 films at the cinema - already this year I've seen half that many so I am on track to keep this resolution.

The two films I've seen so far this year seem to be diametrically opposed at first glance - Martin Scorsese's Hugo and Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist. One is a special effects laden film based on a children's book and the other a homage to the silent movies of the 1920s.

However when you look deeper they are actually both about one thing - a love of early cinema.

While Hugo is an adventure story, and a 3D one at that, the under current is the discovery by the children that Papa George is actually Georges Melies - the innovative early film maker. The last half of Hugo was all about how he made his films and then the chance to see some of them on a big screen.
The film was a fun watch, the acting good and the story lovely but I expected the latter as Hugo is based on the wonderful book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. As ever with an adaptation I did find the book better but it was faithful to the book and the only thing making me wince was the 3D. Watching 3D films when you already wear glasses is not the best experience in my opinion.

The Artist was a true delight. Starting in 1927, when the silent movie was at its height, we meet the heart throb of the moment George Valentin and also wannabe actress Peppy Miller. Through the rest of the film we see one star wane as the other rises as the talkie takes over from the wonderful silent movie.
The Artist isn't entirely silent, every so often there are sound effects and voices and, as they are meant to, these really leap out at the viewer and for me broke the spell a little. It was also filmed in colour and converted to black and white and as a photographer who sometimes uses this technique I could see this occasionally and again it pulled me out of the movie for a moment.

I am pleased that I went and saw both of these films on the big screen but I think, surprisingly, that it was The Artist that is the film which worked best for me. Silent movies, with their beautiful sound track and text boards explaining the plot, make for an immersive experience and I think that watching this at home on a smaller screen, with the distractions of the house, just wouldn't be the same. Hugo, while enjoyable on the big screen in 3D, will be just fine as a 2D DVD!

Last night saw the Golden Globes being announces and both of these films won awards. Best Director went to Scorsese/Hugo and then Best Motion Picture (comedy or drama), Best Actor (comedy or drama) and Best Original Score went to the Artist.

Now if only my other resolution (to actually read the books set for book group) was going so well!

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