Even in an age of ubiquitous tabloidism and an obsession with past, Hollywood has produced several silver screen goddesses who have, in their later years, famously refused comment (Doris Day, Dolores Hart). But no one has been as louche as Kim Novak, the blonde sphinx of such films as Pal Joey, Picnic, The Man with the Golden Arm, and most famously, Hitchcock’s Vertigo where she played Madeline, the blonde siren at the center of a winding, deceptive plot. Since the ’90s, Novak has been virtually off the map, her absence from the screen constituting as much of a formal retirement as the movie business allows. You can imagine our surprise when we heard Novak crying foul the other day, on the subject of Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, a ‘love letter’ to old Hollywood, with a few appropriations of its own.
The cause for outcry? The Artist‘s sampling of Bernard Herrmann‘s classic Vertigo score–something Novak can only see as a form of artistic rape, violating not only Hermann’s masterpiece, but Novak’s body of work.
Of course, if we really stopped to pick apart all the ways in which The Artist borrows, begs and steals from the films that preceded it–we’d be here all days. And Hazanavicius would be in hot water, rather than in line for a handful of Oscar nominations. But the point of a film is not to be original–it’s the most referential medium there is, one which has been building on its own history, in a kind of jenga effect, from day one.
Our verdict: Brilliant work asks to be borrowed, or at least referenced, and everyone knows you can’t rape the willing.