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Typically blooper reels feature actors breaking out of their created roles. There may be some unforeseen accident on set, a stray boom falling into frame, performers losing their handle on the dialogue (or language in general), unexpected bouts of Tourette syndrome, uncontrolled laughing during the funeral scene or otherwise unusable, though amusing, takes. But it is always clear that, for that moment, Fred Friendly (or whoever the character is) has dropped away and George Clooney (or whichever actor) has reemerged.
What is striking about the blooper reel from Michel Hazanavicius's “The Artist” that Coming Soon made available yesterday is that it is difficult to discern the moment where George Valentin/Peppy Miller disappear and Jean Dujardin/Bérénice Bejo emerge. Sure, when Uggie the dog fails to follow a command, it is obvious that the shot has not gone as planned (it is also more than a little bit adorable). When poor Bejo face plants in the midst of a sequence, we know it wasn’t an “I meant to do that.” But the distinction between actor and character is infinitesimal at best.
The featurette evokes the same sense of frothy warmth that the film itself does. It is charming, light and vivaciously stylized. The players carry with them a sweetness and charisma that makes the viewer want to watch and laugh with them. That inherently enchanting quality serves and supports the film's appeal. But the blooper reel also provides a reminder of why I have been so perplexed by the overwhelmingly positive awards season response to the film. With 10 Oscar nominations and three Golden Globe wins, “The Artist” is (and has been throughout the duration of the precursor season) one of the unequivocal darlings of the year.
It is endearingly engaging, but fails to evoke a deeper visceral or emotional response. There is an airy, easy quality to it that makes it incredibly enjoyable to watch and communicates the director's enthusiasm for cinema. But there is no real sense of sophistication or palpable, significant themes being plumbed.
The choice to pull out the performances has been particularly befuddling. Lively and winsome as they absolutely are, they are also, by nature of the script, story and manner of film, quite broad. With the vulnerable, nuanced and painfully raw performances available this season, the nominations for “The Artist” feel like another example of the remarkable power and scope of The Weinstein Company’s marketing arm. If there was an Academy Award for running Academy Award campaigns, they would be the Meryl Streep of that field.
In any event, I did find “The Artist” to be charismatic and pleasant, so for a glance at the outtakes of what was (for me) one of the feel-good, if not soul-affecting, films of the year, have a look at the video below.
For year-round entertainment news and commentary follow @JRothC on Twitter.