I’m talking about the Oscar-studded film, The Artist. If you’d rather not know…
- why it won “Best Film”
- why it didn’t deserve to win and…
- why it would have been better if George Valentin had blown his head off…
then get back to work on your novel and we’ll see you next week.
The Artist, an overview
Silent movie star, George Valentin, makes a stand against the coming of talking pictures. George believes passionately in silent movies, and it’s a belief system that refuses to die.
Good characters have belief systems that refuse to die. But die they must!
Who wants to watch a movie about a hero whose philosophies (dogmas, principles, whatever you call them) out-muscle his will to live? Imagine being dictated to by strategies that are outmoded yet fatally entrenched. This happens. People’s minds prevail over their evolution as more omnipotent beings. How depressing.
George Valentin presents a classic case of a belief system under attack. He’s a silent movie god—then along come the talkies. He digs in his heels because silent movies are… well… they’re Art. Sound ruins everything. But sound sells tickets. Alas, George isn’t buying it at all.
Why The Artist won
The Artist presents a rare and graphic example of a character struggling against his habitual belief system. Half way through the film, George Valentin would appear to have nothing to live for—no job, no girl, no money, no fans. Yet he refuses to believe that silent movies are dead.
With half a movie left, what else can the script writer take away from George? Lots.
His comb, his razor. His self-discipline, self-respect, self-esteem. From the look of that gun barrel in his mouth, George hates himself.
This is why The Artist won—the film devotes half its length to stripping George down to self-loathing. You can’t do better than that. A gun in his mouth—Wow—that’s the dead-end of all dead-ends. I loved it!
Audiences pay to vicariously experience utter failure—because they are nourished by the subsequent resurrection.
Why The Artist didn’t deserve the Oscar
George is saved by a third party, that’s why. Deus ex machina, of all things. The writer eroded his protagonist’s belief system, but not far enough that George let go of it. Had he released his grip, he would have fallen into the blessed hell of total darkness where aspects of his higher nature would have become available.
But George is saved by…someone else. No! That’s melodrama. He’s handed a resolution by some starlet who is operating from another belief system. No! George was so very close to an answer.
And as the story fades to black, viewers are entertained—but not nourished as they might have been.
Why George should have pulled the trigger
Had our hero blown his brains out, we would have learned something about the human condition—that belief systems can be stronger than a person’s will to live. That’s tragic.
Tragedy: a drama in which the protagonist’s belief system holds firm unto suicide.
(I feel ill…because it happens.)
No way that the writer could have ended The Artist on such a dark note. The tone of the film was fun and upbeat. But George’s death would have taught us the sad truth about the tyranny of a belief system.
Instead we got to watch him dance a duet. Man, he sure can dance.
Sorry to have spoiled the movie for you. But then what did I really spoil? I spoiled a movie that was already spoiled.
I so enjoy talking about movies, I might just further spoil them, too.