Geoff Cox’s guide to new DVDs: The Artist, Shame, Chronicle

THINGS have changed since the last time a silent movie won an Oscar.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 22nd May 2012, 4:46 am

First World War saga Wings picked up the Academy Award for best picture in 1929 when the ceremony lasted only 15 minutes as the winners had been announced three months earlier.

The occasion was hosted by Douglas Fairbanks and the 270 guests each paid five dollars for a ticket.

This year the Oscars bash was hosted by Billy Crystal and went on for several hours, much of which was spent handing out gongs to THE ARTIST (PG: Entertainment In Video).

Five awards were presented to this remarkable re-creation of Hollywood’s silent movie era, which is a film buff’s feel-good joy.

Shot in black and white, director Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin perfectly capture the period and style.

Dujardin’s charm is successfully harnessed as matinee idol George Valentin, whose career nosedives with the arrival of the talkies.

Meanwhile, vivacious Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who joins one of his pictures as an extra, finds her star rising as the studios look for fresh talent with attractive voices.

With only the briefest and cleverest dips into sound, The Artist embraces the techniques and look of Tinseltown on the eve of The Jazz Singer. It pays homage to numerous silent classics and Citizen Kane and is a sheer delight.

> Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen, who collaborated on acclaimed award-winner Hunger, team up again for SHAME (18: Momentum), the story of a man’s obsession with all things carnal.

Brandon (Fassbender) is a high-flying New Yorker whose real interests are sex and self-loathing.

His computer at work is clogged with porn, he’s an enthusiastic employer of prostitutes and every waking moment is dedicated to pursuing the next conquest.

But when his sister (Carey Mulligan) turns up unexpectedly, complications enter his life, not least the ones of the Oedipal kind.

Shame is powerfully acted and well directed and fans of Fassbender’s naked body, of whom McQueen appears to be the most dedicated, will find much to enjoy.

But lurking at its heart is a puritan priggishness when it comes to sex. Unless one takes a somewhat Victorian view, it’s never explained why he should be ashamed.

> Michael Caine does his best Captain Birds Eye impression in JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (PG: Warner), a pleasant slice of family fare in which Treasure Island meets Gulliver’s Travels.

A teenager (Josh Hutcherson) and his stepfather (Dwayne Johnson) trace the actual location of author Jules Verne’s supposedly fictional island.

After travelling to the South Pacific and roping in a helicopter pilot and his daughter, they crash on the island during a hurricane.There they find Hutcherson’s grandfather (Caine) and discover the truth about the place. As they try to escape, they fight monster lizards, fly on giant bees and uncover hidden treasure.

The plotting is perfunctory, but the scenery is spectacular and Johnson’s pectoral popping and ukulele version of What A Wonderful World are added attractions for some viewers. Possibly.

> The latest addition to the ‘found footage’ subgenre (Cloverfield, Trollhunter) is CHRONICLE (12: Twentieth Century Fox), a teen sci-fi thriller filmed in hand-held documentary style.

Three high school friends become endowed with superpowers after making a discovery in an underground crater. Using their telekinesis, he trio let loose a range of juvenile pranks whenever they feel like it, but find their friendship tested to the limit when the ambitions of one of them take an altogether darker route.

The jaw-dropping smackdown is worthy of a big-budget blockbuster.

> So Tarantino-esque it almost hurts, CATCH .44 (15: Anchor Bay), a thriller with a bad ass attitude, unashamedly wears its influences on its sleeve.

Three women with guns are working for crime boss Bruce Willis. When they’re victims of a double-crossing drug deal that’s more of a set-up than a heist gone wrong, they seek revenge. Co-starring Forest Whitaker and Brad Dourif.