|I have nothing to do with what follows|
The Random Animal recently saw the film The Artist, despite the admonition in the ticket window: THE ARTIST IS A SILENT FILM IN BLACK & WHITE. The ticket agent actually telling you that fact would probably violate a silent film code. (There was also a sign about the next film on my list, The WAR HORSE: scenes go in and out of focus, rather like when you’re falling from a horse.)
The Artist is indeed a throwback, with the occasional dialogue box and orchestral music that chirped and lilted and swelled. Most of all, it revealed why people first went to films--to see charming and beautiful people (a little puffed-up) displaying wonderful and worthless talents, a darkening melodrama, a tease of romance, and a funny bit with a dog.
A Jack Russell terrier shared nearly every scene with the handsome male star (French—need we say more.) It's Uggie who came from humble beginnings as a rescued dog to be a screen pro after his role in Water For Elephants. Like movie dogs of yore, Uggie seemed precociously human, danced, and channeled RinTinTin to race across town and save lives. He received more affection than the star’s onscreen wife, who channeled the unhappy grape-fruited spouse in Citizen Kane. How refreshing in a retro novelty to see a talented dog receive his due. No wonder Uggie received the Palm Dog award in Cannes.
|I'd like to thank my litter mates...|
On the whole, The Artist manages artifice with finesse. The premise of a silent b&w film in 2012 is that it’s a pastiche, an anachronism, la recherche du temps perdu when “it” girls bobbed their hair and tap-danced their way to happiness. But even within their cartoonish dimensions, the actors, human and canine, played out the conventions sincerely, with feeling, and a sense of consequence.
Dogs were featured on a recent episode of the TV mystery series, Castle, "An Embarrassment of Bitches." (The title says much about the tone of the show.). A retriever rolls his eyes and soulfully stares, even though it is evident by his steady gaze in some scenes that an off-screen companion directs his actions. A few television shows have regularly included animals as part of the fictional family--Frasier and Mad About You come to mind, but they are still underrepresented for the stable presence, comfort, and sheer entertainment they provide.
Winter in the Dolphin Tale, Uggie in The Artist, the elephant of Water for Elephants, the horse(s) of Secretariat, soon--the many horses who display how we idealize the horse and how deploy it in violence in The War Horse. The animal star returns.