To my nephews: Drew and, when he is old enough to be subverted by it, Luke.
Moses was a spotty boy with reedy legs and a reedy voice, who dwelt in the ancient land of Egypt. But he never really felt at home there. “I don’t see the point of all these angular buildings” he said to himself, “and there’s never enough milk and honey to go around. Perhaps I should leave and see the world?” So he climbed to the top of the tallest pyramid to plead his case to Pharaoh.
He huffed and he puffed, but he did not fall down. Pharaoh sat atop a pyramidal throne of gold under the blazing sun, an uncomfortable yet traditional arrangement. Three score slaves and six fanned him steadily with palm leaves, to steady the ship of state and keep it from the shoals of capriciousness. No-one wanted a repeat of the infamous ‘bricks without straw’ edict, handed down on the hottest day of the year. Moses paused to catch his breath and gather his thoughts, borrowing a palm leaf to cool himself. The movement caught Pharaoh’s eye. “What are you doing here, boy?” thundered the tetchy ruler from his lofty perch. In accordance with protocol, Moses fell to his knees and gave voice to his dilemma through the medium of song, giving a spirited performance despite his weak voice.
"…and if my mates could come too, that would be grand” added Moses as an afterthought. Pharaoh was not unmoved, he sipped from a vial of chilled date juice while the slaves beat faster, considering his response. While impressed by the lad’s rhyming of ‘double’ with ‘trouble’ he could not ignore the disrespectful form of address and somewhat ominous, bullying tone – that was no way to talk to the son of Ra! He took a bite of a McPharaoh burger and hardened his heart.
“No, I will not let you go!” proclaimed Pharaoh with finality, spitting a spray of pharonic crumbs.
Moses was outraged, he turned his back and stamped and stomped his way to the base of the pyramid. “There’ll be trouble all right” he wheezed. First he borrowed his mate Aaron's best poking stick. Then he took an enormous bottle of dye from the scribes' hall and the biggest bucket he could find and went down to the river Nile, life of the land. He poured the dye into the river, turning its waters red. With the stick he parted the reeds and parted the waters, searching up and down the bank for his warriors of justice, until the bucket was full to the brim.
Five years after release, how well does Academy Award winner The Artist stand up?
On first viewing I greatly enjoyed its sly humour and novelty. There are some beautifully crafted scenes such as the dream sequence below.
The sudden intrusion of sound in a previously silent film is far more effective when seen in context. The scene doesn't just serve as foreshadowing of George's struggles in a world of talkies, it captures the inner turmoil that any life-changing event can provoke - a death, redundancy, the end of a relationship...
Cinema isn't all pyrotechnics, a few deft touches can enrich it - George's wife doodling on his photo, his reaction, and the expressions of the extras in the scene below:
Ultimately though, I found it a little disappointing to revisit. Its novelty allowed me to watch a melodrama uncritically and cynically on first viewing, something that wouldn't normally be possible. (This is interesting of itself, and gives me a better understanding of why people respond to the genre.) I was expecting some kind of darker twist, a some acknowledgement of the people chewed up by the Hollywood dream factory. Instead it plays the myth straight. It's the story of a privileged man who wallows in self-pity after his world is upturned, who doesn't change or adapt. The status-quo is restored when his paramour rescues him, much like an inverted damsel-in-distress. However, the final twist of the film, where we finally hear George speak, does redeem this lack of development - another artful moment that forces the audience to re-interpret the entire movie.