Liz Smith: Silence Please! “The Artist” Has Entered The Monkey Bar

And more from our Gossip Girl: Harvey Weinstein and friends celebrate a dazzling Oscar-worthy movie … Streep tackles the critics … Madonna lonely in London … Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t know when to kiss the girl

“WHEN YOU see a silent movie, you understand everything that’s going on, because the images are so strong,” said actress Monica Belluci.

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THERE WERE plenty of silent movie appreciators this week at The Monkey Bar lunch for some of the people who made “The Artist,” the black and white, silent film that could just sweep the Academy Awards.

When I first saw that modern day Frenchies had reverted to the artistry of silent film, I told myself, “Self, these kids might end up on the Academy Awards list!” For once, I was right. And the great champagne Dom Perignon seems to have agreed with me; they sponsored the lunch.

And when the names on the invitation are George Stevens, Jr. (kingmaker from the Kennedy Center), uber producer Harvey Weinstein and that glamour girl of fashion, Diane von Furstenberg — people don’t say no.

I lucked into just about the very best Monkey Bar banquette, sitting with George and Liz Stevens while we ran down our Hollywood movie lane of memories. (George is the famous son of a very famous father, the late George Stevens, Sr. who won two Oscars himself for directing — “A Place in the Sun” and “Giant.”) With us at lunch was the charming and beautiful Candice Bergen and the director of “The Artist,” one Michel Hazanavicius.

Other award-winning worthies on hand were the film’s producer, Thomas Langmann, and the two leading actors — Jean DuJardin and Berenice Bejo. (Ms. Bejo was beautiful in Diane von Furstenberg and sat by the designer at lunch.)

You’ll be hearing these names again before the award season ends. (Michel already won best director and the film itself won best picture from the New York Film Critics Circle.) It was very entertaining to talk with the handsome director who, at first, I thought was probably just a good-looking leading man whose name had slipped my mind. Michel seemed excited and stunned when we reminded him that in the voting for the Oscars, only directors can elect one of their peers. Maybe he was just putting us on that he didn’t realize that!

Others floating about under the Edward Sorel paintings on the wall of VIPs from the original Monkey Bar, were Georgina Chapman, actors Carol Kane and Tony Lo Bianco, theater king Jordan Roth, director James Toback, and people now famous from “The Book of Mormon”; to wit, Nikki M. James, Rory O’Malley, and Andrew Rannells.

I want to give an extra salute for this luncheon to hostess von Furstenberg. She was wearing a great dress that seemed to have been made out of sailing signal flags. In her welcoming speech, she teased her pal producer Weinstein by saying that he only contacted her when he was pushing a serious film, “usually something about the holocaust! Or if it has a European sexy connection!”

Washington’s highly-connected Mr. Stevens also made a complimentary speech to our French cousins for their adroit production of a unique idea from cinema history — the silent film!

Privately, he told me a wonderful little story about how he had worked hard cajoling the late Kate Hepburn into being honored at Kennedy Center. Kate kept saying no; she didn’t believe in such things and Stevens finally convinced her to agree by citing her devotion to doing things that require “grit, Puritan old-fashioned New England stick-to-it-ive-ness and determination” and asking her to apply those virtues to honoring the arts and other artists.  “Oh well, all right,” snapped Kate, hanging up on him. Later she said, “I loved your father; I did it for him!”

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I THINK Meryl Streep’s “The Iron Lady” is a wonderful film and her acting at its apex. But she has had to answer to British critics who feel the movie displays bad taste documenting Margaret Thatcher’s dementia while the former Prime Minister is still alive.

Meryl has just defended the film, which opened to sell-out audiences in Great Britain, by saying: “I’ve had experience with dementia in my own family. I don’t think it’s a shameful thing to depict it. I would hope that if Lady Thatcher did see it, that she would understand what we were after.”

Just love these star quotes. Here’s Madonna on living in England while wed to director Guy Ritchie back in 2000: “I really didn’t have any friends!” says the big M, of the days she lived in a country house in Wiltshire. “I found myself in a strange world, so I decided that I was going to find out about the history and culture of this new world that I lived in.” This is what led to her study of the monarchy and the tale of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. This, in turn, created the movie “W.E.” which opens wide in the U.S. in February. “I was transfixed by the idea that a man would give up such a powerful position for love. I felt there was something Shakespearean about it … I know what it’s like to be reduced to a sound bite. I saw a pattern … that when women have some kind of power … we diminish them by turning them into heretics.”

Now comes Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” fame talking about how romance didn’t come naturally to him, though he has been with one girlfriend Rosie Coker for a year: “I hated dating because I’m crap at it. I didn’t know on which date you’re supposed to try to kiss her.”

10 comments so far.

  1. avatar Obediah Fults says:

    Will “The Artist” ever-ever-EVER play in Maine? The excitement and anticipation have dragged on and on for so long that my friends and I have almost resigned ourselves to waiting for the DVD! It will be a terrible shame if we’re not able to see it in a theater — but, on the other hand, the difference between a modern cinéplex screen and a big TV in a living room isn’t so much after all. Still, I’d love to see it in a theater; it’s just that the excitement is waning fast.

    • avatar HannahS says:

      Have you and your friends called, emailed, and mailed letters to your local theater owners/management teams? Cause unless you do so, the majority of independent/low-budget/foreign films won’t come to your town (how could theater owners possibly know they would be worth the investment if their audiences aren’t quietly, respectfully demanding those films?), and it would be a shame to miss Poetry, Higher Ground, and many of the other wonderful non-studio films that are out this year.

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      Don’t know about Maine but I had to go to Hartford, CT to see it. We live in Western Massachusetts. Not a very long drive but it irks me that we are not considered “sophisticated” enough for it to be shown locally. This is what I was told when I contacted several of the local movie theaters. Their answer was the area is perceived as not being interested in this kind of movie. Well within about 40 minutes of where we live are 8 colleges, the Eric Carle Museum, Tanglewood, a wonderful fully supported symphony and an art museum with a current Monet exhibit! My thinking is the distributor made a mistake.
      Sure hope you get to see it near you in Maine! It is very special. You are right about modern cineplex and big screens; but it is still great to see it in the theater.

    • avatar Obediah Fults says:

      Oh, YAY!!! I guess there’s something to be said for “putting it out to The Universe” after all! Just today, “The Artist” appeared in the “coming soon” listings of our local Evening Star Cinema in Brunswick, Maine. What a perfect venue for it, too! It’s a tiny art house that reminds me of a nickelodeon. The same guy that sells tickets also makes the popcorn (and sells it) — and then, for all I know, turns on the projector too!

      Okay, I’m excited again!

      • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

        Three cheers and good work to Evening Star Cinema of Brunswick, Maine!! It does sound like a perfect venue. Now, gather all the “peeps” and make them happy they are showing this wonderful movie.
        Enjoy!!

  2. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    On the rumor that Lifetime – Television for Cat Ladies plans to make a bio pic with Lindsey Lohan playing Elizabeth Taylor. I’ll just let Dame Elizabeth speak for herself: “”None is going to play Elizabeth Taylor, but Elizabeth Taylor herself.” – @DameElizabeth tweet – 7/22/10

    • avatar D C says:

      I would think that if anybody were contemplating a biopic of Elizabeth Taylor, they would choose a world class beauty to play the role, rather than a skanky convict.  I don’t think anyone with the looks or the acting chops exists to do justice.  How about just a boxed set of a written biography and all of her movies on DVD.

      • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

        I agree 1000% with the thoughts of the Count and DC! No one can play Liz but Liz and if the only person they can dig up to give it a try is Lindsey Lohan, well why bother? I do hope that she gets her life together at some point even if it is doubtful.
        As far as a boxed set with a written biography and all her movies on DVD, I think that is a wonderful idea. Perhaps add recorded interviews with those who knew and loved her.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        A biography would be interesting. Maybe Kitty Kelley will do a sequel. And not leave so much out this time. The good, the bad, and the, well, earthy.

  3. avatar rick gould says:

    I’m about as interested in Lindsay Lohan playing Liz Taylor as I am in reading Kitty Litter’s writing a sequel to her trashy clip and paste bio of ET.