Year of Release: 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
This film was reviewed by Dr. Barry Hummel of QDREF on February 20, 2012.
"The Artist, Best Picture Nominee in 2011, is a tribute to the bygone era of black & white, silent movies. As with most period pieces, the filmmakers relied on all of the conventions of the past, including the use of tobacco and tobacco smoke to create mood.
Ten different characters account for 28 appearances of tobacco. It starts from the opening scene, which takes place in a theater. Not only are members of the audience smoking during the screening of a film, but the film’s producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) is shown smoking backstage.
In another scene, Al Zimmer shows his main star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) a screen test for a ‘talkie’. Several other people in the small screening room are smoking, filling the entire room with smoke. It adds nothing to the scene, and in many ways it is an unnecessary distraction.
The worst use of tobacco, however, is its use to document the downfall of George Valentin. As talkies take over the industry, the has-been silent star is shown slowly drinking and smoking his way into oblivion.
This use of tobacco is a cop-out… a lazy approach on the part of the filmmakers. It says that they were not clever enough to show Valentin’s downward spiral without using tobacco. We know this isn’t true, because the same filmmakers cleverly used sound during a dream sequence to show Valentin’s angst regarding the arrival of talkies. Again, if I can suspend my disbelief that sound can appear in a modern silent movie, I can also suspend my disbelief when tobacco does NOT appear in a movie that takes place during the 1930’s.
Just because something was done in the past, doesn’t mean we need to continue to repeat the same mistakes.