Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The Artist is a silent film? You’re kidding me!

Here’s one of those delightful non-stories. The sensationalist version of the headline goes like this: PUNTERS DEMAND REFUNDS AFTER DISCOVERING THE ARTIST IS SILENT FILM. A more accurate translation of the facts would run: A FEW PUNTERS IN ONE CINEMA …

Wed, Jan 18, 2012, 19:30

   

Here’s one of those delightful non-stories. The sensationalist version of the headline goes like this: PUNTERS DEMAND REFUNDS AFTER DISCOVERING THE ARTIST IS SILENT FILM. A more accurate translation of the facts would run: A FEW PUNTERS IN ONE CINEMA HAVE DEMANDED REFUNDS BECAUSE THEY’RE BLEEDING HALF-WITS.

Huh? Huh? I can’t hear anything!

Yes, as the Guardian reports, it seems that one or two “guests” at a Liverpool cinema have asked for their money back.The story tells us that (even more bizarrely) the disappointed scousers were also unhappy to discover that the film was presented in the narrower academy ratio. I imagine if you phoned around every cinema in Britain and Ireland you’d find tales of bizarre complaints concerning virtually every picture. Shame had too much sex in it. Mrs Thatcher wasn’t really made of iron. Remember that woman who sued because Drive was insufficiently idiotic? Remember the complaints about Bad Santa being unsuitable for toddlers? There’s no accounting for the weirdness of some people.

As it happens, The Artist has done very well in the UK and Ireland. Its per-screen average went up last week and the word-of-mouth is uniformly positive. But the film has not taken off in the United States. It is currently way behind where Slumdog Millionaire — that year’s presumed Oscar winner — stood at the relevant point in 2009. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a pretty tricky sort of film, is beating the pants off Michel Hazanavicius’s picture at most locations. This news offers, perhaps, the only barrier to The Artist winning the Oscar in a month’s time. Everybody (not least the Weinstein brothers) had assumed the picture would be a small smash by this point. The Academy does want to be seen to be supporting vaguely mainstream films.

Since The Artist is hardly “difficult”, we must grumpily assume that the US public is being turned off ┬áby the picture’s lack of spoken dialogue (and, perhaps, the smallness of its frame). If, by any chance, you are reading this in Portland or Pittsburgh, bop your pals on the head and cart them off to a screening. The poor wee film does deserve to do better. Mind you, I reckon it will still take the big prize.

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