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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira:

September 9, 2011 at 8:35 PM

At TIFF: ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘The Artist,’ and the wrong red carpet

TORONTO — This is what happens when you get too busy at a festival and forget to double-check things. You head off in the early evening to see Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights” at the Ryerson Theatre, which is about a mile walk from your hotel but a little fresh air, after three previous movies that day, seems like a good idea. You show up, and note a busy red carpet with zillions of photographers yelling, “Jon, Jon, over here!” You go into the lobby to pick up your ticket from a supposedly waiting publicist and get a pleasant smile from a lovely blonde in a cocktail dress who you recognize as Jennifer Westfeldt, the charming actress, writer (“Kissing Jessica Stein”) and director of the TIFF comedy “Friends with Kids.” You realize that’s Jon Hamm, over on the red carpet, and you realize, like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, that you’re not in Kansas anymore, and certainly not in “Wuthering Heights.” You ascertain where you’re supposed to be, which is of course way too far to walk, and jump into a cab and tell the driver that you are an idiot who needs to be transported to the Bell Lightbox ASAP. He, nice man, does so.
It was a long detour just to get a smile from Jennifer Westfeldt and a very obstructed view of Jon Hamm, but oh well. (It also caused me, in the taxi, to ponder the version of “Wuthering Heights” that these two would make; some very cheery sunny version in which Heathcliff is just mildly cranky; sort of like Don Draper on a Monday.) Anyway, Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights” is neither sunny nor cheery or romantic — in other words, it’s wonderfully true to Emily Bronte’s book, which is not about romance but about dark, dangerous passion. It’s an often violent movie, and an often beautiful one; shot on the Yorkshire Moors where the mist seems to be a character in the film. Those looking for a pretty period piece will probably flee the theater early (several did tonight); those looking for a brutally honest depiction of a brilliant, disturbing novel will find it. As she did in “Fish Tank,” Arnold uses mostly inexperienced actors here, to good effect; there’s not a lot of dialogue, as those moors do a lot of the talking.
On a lighter note, “The Artist” screened this morning, and it was a joy. This movie, a hit at Cannes, is Michel Hazanavicius’ ode to 1920s Hollywood, shot in black and white and mostly with dialogue (though the music is a kick, particularly when it suddenly turns into Bernard Herrmann’s achingly beautiful score from “Vertigo”) It’s the story of a silent-film actor (Jean Dujardin) dismayed by the advent of talkies and watching a beautiful ingenue (Berenice Bejo) make her way to fame. Love, pathos, tap-dancing, knockout cinematography, a very photogenic dog, and the kind of feel-good ending that has you dancing out of the theater — what’s not to love?
“The Artist” should hit Seattle theaters in November; don’t miss it. “Wuthering Heights” doesn’t yet have distribution, but I’m keeping an eye out. The first big acquisition of the festival turned out to be Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” a drama about sexual compulsion starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Hasn’t even screened here yet, but Fox Searchlight has scooped it up, despite what’s sure to be an NC-17 rating, with buzz about a possible Oscar campaign for Fassbender (who was first noticed by a lot of us in Arnold’s “Fish Tank”). I’m off now, to finish re-reading “Wuthering Heights” in preparation for a chat with Andrea Arnold tomorrow; more (including reports on the other movies I saw today, “The Skin I Live In” and “A Dangerous Method” later.
(Photo: “The Artist,” Jean Dujardin as George Valentin and Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller in Michel Hazanavicius’s film/The Weinstein Company.)

Comments | Topics: The Artist, TIFF, Toronto International Film Festival


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