One hot favourite for the Oscars that left me cold

Kelner's View


There are times when I feel so out of kilter with public opinion that it makes me wonder whether I have critical appreciation, emotional intelligence, or even a soul. This happened last weekend when I went to see The Artist, the new film that is a homage to the silent movie era of Hollywood, and is itself a silent film.

The reception from critics all over the land has been ecstatic. Our very own man in the third row with a choc ice and a notebook, Anthony Quinn, who is not known for effusiveness, said it was "the subtlest and most enjoyable experience of the movie year", adding that it reminded him of why we loved going to the pictures in the first place.

The Guardian's critic said that it was the first time he had wept tears of joy in the cinema, while the man from The Telegraph was similarly moved: it was "a heart-swellingly joyful" film, he said.

According to insider reports, it is a certainty to win a mantelpiece-full of awards at the Oscars, and may even be voted as best picture. So why was it that it left me completely unmoved? No tears of joy here, I'm afraid. In fact, I found it hard to engage with the film on an emotional level, hard though I tried.

It was, it has to be said, not your standard cinema experience. It's shot in black and white with no dialogue to speak of, so to speak, so the audience has to do a lot more work than if it were, for example, the latest Hugh Grant vehicle. I was prepared for that, however, and was willing my heart to get behind the film. But your heart is one organ that doesn't lie, and, in this case, it just wasn't in it.

I didn't conduct a thorough survey of my fellow cinema goers, but you do get a pretty clear sense of how a film has gone down by the conversations you hear around you on leaving the auditorium. I got the distinct impression that many others felt rather as I did: this was a perfectly diverting film, but it failed to get the juices flowing.

This was partially reassuring, but I was still bemused by the disconnect between what I thought, and what I had read in the reviews. It may have been that I simply didn't get all the in-jokes – there's an echo of the love theme from Vertigo, and the opening sequence is meant to be a clever tribute to Singin' In The Rain – or that, in my old age, it takes much more to melt my heart.

But it may also have been that film critics, who have to watch every film released – most of which, let's face it, are unadulterated rubbish – were so entranced by something so different in texture, and with a cleverness that only they would fully appreciate, that there may have been a general lowering of the bar as far as critical appreciation is concerned.

Even if this were true, I can't help thinking that I'm missing out. But in an era when the wisdom of crowds seems to dominate, it can also be gratifying to feel out on your own.

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