The Artist: A Review with an extra big shout out to Uggy

By Nancy Chuda Founder and Editor-in Chief of LuxEcoLiving and co-founder of Healthy Child Healthy World

Silence is golden as in oscar winner. You betcha!


If you haven’t seen The Artist you must! One of the best films ever! Silent Movies gave birth to this nation. It was and still is a miraculous invention. The seemingly nondescript  events in The Artist parallels just about everything you have seen and experienced in movies; boy discovers girl, girl chases fame, fame creates  loneliness which leads girl back to boy in just the nick of time.

So as luck would provide I sat in the golden splendor of one of the most beautiful cities in all the world. And in awe of the silence in a darkened theater in the midst of The International Santa Barbara Film Festival, I observed the audience going crazy with laughter just for Uggy. Not because he’s just a dog but because he’s the only character in the film who knows how to do a pratfall and that trick is no small feat by any means. A good pratfall is what turned the silent screen into an audience’s  roar.

But what makes this film extraordinary is the pure chemistry between its stars, not the umpteen takes it took to achieve it. Pure magic from beginning to end of credits.

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo as George and Peppy are so delightfully matched. They bring  perfect pitch  in this  French cineaste in which  Michel Hazanavicius celebrates the coming of sound to Hollywood.
When I was a film critic at  (KABC Eyewitness News) I saw no less than ten new releases a week. Most, not all, were pretty boring. The best part of the job was having the opportunity to study the history of old hollywood and in particular the artists that added to hollywood’s fame and fortune. Hollywood’s roots are truly organic.
D.W. Griffith, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and my favorite of all time, Mable Normand brought their magic to the silver screen a frame at a time. And what a laborious process.
Years later, I wrote a screenplay about the first comedic heroine, Madcap Mable and sold it to Frank Price at Universal Studios. It sat on his desk for years. Later, I wrote a sequel, Tillies Punctured Romance, which I will now send to Spielberg. It’s never too late to add a new theme to Universal City and the park which attracts millions.
One of the best reviews of The Artist is shared here by Philip French. He writes,” from time to time moviemakers have attempted to recapture silent cinema. Anthony Mann, who grew up in the silent era, announced in the mid-1960s that his war film, The Heroes of Telemark, was going to be almost devoid of dialogue, but he was talked out of it. A decade later Mel Brooks made Silent Movie, a strained comedy with one really effective joke: Marcel Marceau is the only person to speak, and has one word, “Non!”. Hazanavicius is altogether bolder, more original. The Artist is in black-and-white and is genuinely silent. Set between 1927 and 1933, it focuses on the relationship between the handsome, narcissistic George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), an established movie star, and Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a pert actress on her way to stardom. The opening sequence takes place at the premiere of George’s latest adventure film,A Russian Affair”, in which he appears with his gifted performing Jack Russell terrier, and we see both the silent movie itself and the silent orchestra and mute black-tie audience in the cinema. The outrageously self-regarding George then takes an onstage bow, largely ignoring his angry female co-star, before greeting fans on the sidewalk outside the cinema where he meets cute with Peppy. There are references here to similar scenes in Singin’ in the Rain. George’s name echoes Valentino, and his appearance is a wonderful combination of Gene Kelly, John Gilbert and Douglas Fairbanks,” and I add Errol Flynn. (later on he actually watches a clip of Fairbanks’s The Mark of Zorro). Peppy’s name and appearance inevitably invoke Clara Bow, the It Girl with the cloche hats and provocative manner.”

The pair meet again when she appears in a small role at his studio where they dance before the camera, fall for each other and part without declaring their love. Then sound comes to Hollywood and the industry is transformed, a crisis marked by a surreally comic sequence in which George hears objects around him making noises. Passing girls chatter, a feather falls with a mighty explosion, but he himself is silent, unspeaking and, as he perceives himself, unspeakable. Like Chaplin he decides to buck the trend and continue making silent films, writing, directing and financing his own work. Hazanavicius provides two striking metaphors. First, George meets Peppy on the staircase of what is, I believe, the Bradbury Building, that classic late-Victorian block in downtown Los Angeles with a magnificent atrium, from where the camera frames three floors, catching her going up as he’s going down.”  Architect James Chuda remarks, “the Bradbury is  an architectural wonder designed by a genius who was just a draftsman. It was  conceived as a high rise office building with an enclosed atrium, the first of it’s kind built in America and it  truly remains as a landmark LuxEcoLiving heritage site.”

 

 

 

 

The most joyful surprise of all is experiencing Uggy, who plays George’s Jack Russell. The Artist sees Uggy playing the hero’s constant companion throughout the film’s emotional roller-coaster ride, providing a performance that is at once clever and versatile. Other than the little dog in the movie  Frida, based on the life of artist Frida Kahlo  whose tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera the legendary artist who becomes obsessed having discovered that his dog has left his “mark” on one of  his most notable works  and later admits that he (his dog) was the best critic of all.

Well if a dog can steal a scene it can sometimes steal the show. Don’t forget W.C. Field’s feared being upstaged when he said,  “Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad.”

In this case its a universal fact. The audience goes crazy for Uggy, when  he saves George’s life. He is the true hero of this film.

The Artist will win Best Picture for all the right reasons but also because it shines a tremendous light on man’s best friend. Go for the gold fido!

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Article by Nancy Chuda

Nancy Chuda is a seasoned broadcast journalist, television writer/producer, talk show host and author. Her career spans over three decades having appeared on both national and cable television. In 1971 she authored one of America’s first low-calorie cookbooks, How To Gorge George Without Fattening Fanny, published by Hawthorn Books. Appearing as a regular guest on Dinah’s Place, Dinah Shore’s ABC daytime talk show. And later on The Johnny Carson Show, The Today Show with Barbara Walters, Merv Griffin, Phil Donahue, and David Frost. In 1972, Nancy and ABC’s Good Morning America co-produced Michael Krause produced a cable program, The Low- Calorie Gallery, based on her best selling cook book. In 1975, hired by Warner-Amex as part of a creative team, she was responsible for hosting and producing content for Columbus Then and Now, a program, the invention of QUBE, an interactive television system which played a pivotal role in the history of American cable television. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QUBE In 1978 she developed a series for ABC’s Good Morning America based on an article which appeared in Mother Earth News magazine. The Integral Urban House, a case study project and model for a sound urban habitat sponsored by the Farallones Institute in Berkley California was the first example of green architecture ever to be televised. In 1979, Nancy co-produced and hosted Sunnyside a Los Angeles based public affairs program viewed on the CBS affiliate station KNXT, From 1980-1984, she appeared on KABC’s Eyewitness News as entertainment reporter and film critic. Her environmental advocacy began when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. In 1990 she co-produced an Emmy nominated ABC Variety Special, An Evening With Friends For The Environment to benefit Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet one of the first national children’s environmental health advocacy groups in which she served as a volunteer. Currently, she is the co-founder and President Emeritus of Healthy Child Healthy World, a non-profit organization established to honor the Chuda’s only child, Colette, who died in 1991 at the age of 5 from Wilm’s tumor a nonhereditary childhood cancer. She is also the co-founder of The Colette Chuda Environmental Fund, a donor-advised fund which supports major epidemiological research on children’s health. Nancy has won numerous awards for her advocacy. In 1996, the California League of Conservation Voters Environmental Leadership Award, The Healthy Schools Heroes Award, presented to both her and her husband James Chuda by California Governor Gray Davis for their legislative efforts in securing The Healthy Schools Act which was signed into law in September, 2000. In 2003, Parent’s Magazine published an article Mom’s On A Mission and awarded Nancy for her environmental leadership for children’s environmental health. She serves as an associate of the Director’s Council of Public Representatives of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was appointed by President Clinton’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Donna Shalala, to serve as a member of the National Advisory Council for the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) a position she held for four years. In 2010, along with her husband James she founded LuxEcoLiving. Nancy Chuda tagged this post with: , , , Read 221 articles by
2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Rick Perry says:

    Puzzling lapse.

    “Hazanavicius provides two striking metaphors. First, George meets Peppy on the staircase of what is, I believe, the Bradbury Building…”

    And you never get to the second metaphor.

    Also, this sentence is actually a dependent clause that remains unfinished:

    “Other than the little dog in the movie Frida, based on the life of artist Frida Kahlo whose tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera the legendary artist who becomes obsessed having discovered that his dog has left his “mark” on one of his most notable works and later admits that he (his dog) was the best critic of all.”

    Rewrite Desk!

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Nancy Chuda, Co-Founder of LuxEco Living and Healthy Child Healthy World
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