Set in a bygone era, The Artist is really about contemporary issues like tackling obsolescence and remaining competitive- March 1, 2012
Watched The Artist last night. The film is a Guru Dutt-esque visual treat in black and white, each frame carefully constructed. A simple story beautifully told, it captures a bygone era when life was simpler.
It is easy to identify with the feelings of a great artist, someone used to being the darling of his fans, constantly in the limelight, fallen on bad times. What makes it interesting, in this case, and relevant to us in modern times, is that this downfall is a direct fallout of a new technology.
As talkies are invented and gain popularity, the silent film loses its appeal. George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin, is too proud to make the transition. He insists on holding on to the old technique and loses his money in a failed self-produced silent film. The Great Depression hits and he becomes a pauper. Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice Bejo) who Valentin had once patronized when she was an extra, goes on to become the new star of the talking movies. In love with Valentin, she continues to look out for him, rescuing him from near death. Valentin’s ego and pride stop him from accepting her help and he continues to fall into a spiral of self loathing and pity. Ultimately, Peppy innovates him as a dancing star, and brings him back into the limelight.
The real reason for Valentin’s downfall, however, is not his pride, but his complete lack of self-confidence in a changing environment. He is good at what he does, the best in fact, and he cannot fathom the idea of acquiring new skills, changing methods and indeed, working hard, to remain competitive. This is the topmost challenge we face today. Individuals and corporations must adapt and reinvent themselves to stay ahead in the game, or opt out. The Artist reminds us to keep our pride in check, always be sensitive to change, keep abreast of new developments and have the right attitude towards learning, even at times from peers and juniors. Quite a lesson!
A week ago, plans we had made for a family weekend out were placed in doubt when my daughter (all of nearly 4) realized her annual play was planned the same saturday and simply refused to sacrifice it for our carefully planned outing! No grudges against her, but the news threw me into a day-long tizzy. A part of me was really really upset and the other part of me could not stop laughing about how little it now takes to upset me!
Last night as we received news of a grandparent’s demise, I revisited the thought of how we seem to have lost the art of being able to take the hiccups of life in our stride. I certainly find I have gone much softer than I was about a decade ago. I reasoned a large part of this is because the consequences of bad news simply did not occur to me way back in my twenties. The other major cause is there are a lot more responsibilities, commitments, stuff to be taken care of. Third, we are so used to the humdrum of our routines, that the slightest uncalled for deviation is hard to handle, no matter how much we complain about that same humdrum routine!
I also suspect that life is too darned comfortable. I have no major struggles, only trifling existential ones! Since the day of discomfort and sniggering at myself a week ago, I have been thanking my kismet that this is all I need to worry about, nothing more fundamental and life-threatening looms like a dark cloud over my existence. As I skim the papers everyday, this is not what I can say for a lot of people in this city and nation. So here’s to showing some gratitude and hoping that, when disaster does strike, I will have the strength of mind to cope!