The Artist has emerged in the Oscar race as the feel-good frontrunner for Best Picture. It’s a silent romantic comedy featuring a delightful international cast and a cute puppy, and even though its protagonist contemplates suicide in a melodramatic, over-the-top silent movie way, overall it’s a happy-go-lucky film.
Who could hate The Artist?
Well, Kim Novak, for one.
The Vertigo starlet took out a full-page ad in Variety today claiming she was raped by The Artist. Or, to be more specific, raped by the filmmakers’ decision to use a piece of Bernad Hermann’s classic score in their movie.
Quoth Ms. Novak: “I want to report a rape. I feel as if my body — or, at least my body of work — has been violated by the movie, The Artist.”
Several critics have already criticized Michel Hazanavicius’ choice to use a selection from the famous score to Vertigo in the film, and rightly so. It might be one thing if The Artist had used a selection of music made popular in a silent film of the 20’s, as per its subject matter, but using one from a 1958 Alfred Hitchcock suspense thriller is totally anachronistic.
Vertigo is one of my favorite films of all time, and though I didn’t even notice the use of Hermann’s music, I have had similar experiences where a piece of music I recognize from another film suddenly pops up in one I’m currently watching, and it’s totally jarring. (Scream 2 cribbed from Broken Arrow‘s music, and I definitely notice it every time I watch it.) So in theory, I’m in agreement with Ms. Novak when she says, “This film could and should have been able to stand on its own without depending upon Bernard Hermann’s score from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo to provide it more drama.”
But still. Rape?
Setting aside the overdramatic statement for a second, what is Kim Novak’s beef with The Artist, anyway? That caused her to go to the trouble of placing a full-page ad in Variety to express her beliefs? It would be one thing for Bernard Hermann or Alfred Hitchcock to make such a statement, and that one thing is: creepy. Because they’re dead. But if they weren’t, it might be understandable — Hermann composed that piece of music, and Hitchcock directed the acclaimed film it’s featured in. Novak, on the other hand, only starred in the movie. One assumes she had no input into the film’s scoring. Why does she care? It’s not like someone used her likeness and the film’s scoring to, say, sell an antidepressant in a TV commercial. “Is your boyfriend trying to mold you into the image of the dead woman he’s obsessed with? Has it ever made you want to jump off a bell tower? Then try Vertigo-B-Gone today!”
But as “rapists” go, The Artist is pretty benign.
If Vertigo really was raped by The Artist, then there is a whole lot of raping going around in Hollywood these days. Steven Spielberg just forcibly inserted his penis into the entire John Ford ouvre with War Horse. The Devil Inside slipped a roofie into The Blair Witch Project‘s beverage and told its dubious best friend Paranormal Activity “she said she’d catch up with you guys later.” And hey, look! There’s Martin Scorsese taking George Melies by force in Hugo while Nicholas Winding Refn anally molests him with Drive! It’s like a whole cinematic train gangbang of rape! What is this, an after-hours club in Brooklyn?
Kim Novak should really rephrase her critique if she’d like her otherwise valid point to be taken seriously. Why use a word like “rape” over something so ultimately harmless? She should save such words for those moments in which a silent movie actually steals into her bedroom and sexually violates her. Oh, won’t she be feeling sheepish then?
Is this merely because The Artist is the current Oscar favorite? I think so. It’s hard to imagine Novak taking out a full-page ad to knock some little-known silent film from some unknown French director, which is what The Artist was before awards season got ahold of it and it became the unlikely front-runner for several awards. And perhaps it’s true that its use of the Vertigo theme should be taken into consideration before it is awarded a Best Original Score nomination. (The Academy’s rules on what is and isn’t eligible in this category have proven frustrating for years now.) But not with claims of rape.
Or — if it’s suddenly fair to taint the image of award hopefuls you don’t like by pinning ridiculous crimes on them, then I’d like to report that The Help just tried to sell me a gram of cocaine and The Descendants punched me in the face and ran off with my iPhone.