I don’t go to the cinema very often in Italy because:
(a) I’m not interested in 92.5 % of the films on offer; and
(b) all non-Italian films in Italian cinemas are dubbed into Italian. The quality of the dubbing is top-notch; lip movements and word sounds are expertly synchronised, but I can’t commit to characters who speak with other actors’ voices, in a language that differs from the original language of the film.
Plus, in order to achieve high standards of dubbing, the translations are often less than faithful. (I’ve checked when I’ve watched DVDs by toggling between languages.)
A film like The Artist, then, is perfect for me: it’s silent – so no need for dubbing! I finally got around to seeing it this week, at an open air cinema in Mantova.
It was a lovely film to look at, very stylish and stylised.
It was a lovely film to listen to, as well: no SHOUTING, SCREAMING or LOUD BANGS (except towards the end).
In place of dialogue, there was music, body language, facial expressions and occasional pops of sound – just to make a point.
I found the experience thoroughly absorbing, as did Signor Lu, who didn’t once ask me a question during moments of high drama (as is his wont!)
It surprised me that the intertitles (the printed portions of dialogue and narrative) hadn’t been translated into Italian. Instead, the English had been retained – in an elegant Art Deco-ish typeface (although, to the trained eye, some of the typefaces and fonts used in The Artist were anachronistic).
The Italian translators solved the language problem by slapping Italian subtitles – in an incongruous-looking modern font – onto the bottom of the screen, marring the otherwise visual deliciousness of the film.
But for all that, The Artist looked like a classic from the silent film era (one that had magically harnessed unjumpy and unshadowy film-making technology). The classic feel extended to the plot, which was appropriately light and familiar – another incarnation of the American Dream (both sweet and sour versions), as though portending the storyline of a gazillion talking films to come.
I liked the lead actors. The eponymous “artist” played his part beautifully, excelling at narcissism while the leading lady was indefatigably upbeat.
I also liked the celebration of an epoch. An epoch with dance steps that make you want to get up and join in, automobiles that exude glamour (although the models used may have been anachronistic) and Hollywood mansions that define opulent living.
There was an awareness, too, that the types of films that get made, are ones that appeal to the masses, i.e. people who are not me. (I’m fine with that. Film-making is a business after all.) By the way, the last time I went to a real cinema to see a mainstream film, the seats were filthy.
At the end of the night, our companions’ commented on the loveliness of the costumes in the film and the hardness of the plastic seats we’d been sitting on. I hadn’t noticed the latter, so caught up had I been in the delightful spectacle on the screen.