Kim Novak‘s complaint about The Artist having used a long segment of Bernard Herrmann‘s Vertigo score in its final act is understandable, but she’s not saying anything startling. The basic strategy of The Artist is “sampling” elements from the past — primarily the aura of silent black-and-white cinema, and plots from A Star Is Born and Singin’ in the Rain — and re-packaging them. So using Herrmann’s Vertigo score falls right into line.
Mike Fleming‘s Deadline story quotes Novak’s manager Sue Cameron as follows: “[Kim] was sitting in her living room, she put the DVD in, and then went into an absolute state of shock and devastation…she is very, very upset.”
Novak has taken out a trade out that reads, in part, “My body of work has been violated by The Artist. Even though they did given Bernard Herrmann a small credit at the end, I believe this kind of filmmaking trick to be cheating. Shame on them! This kind of ‘borrowing’ could portend a dangerous future for all artists in film. It is morally wrong of people in our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what the original work was intended.”
I have no argument with Novak, but I’m a bit surprised by two things written by Fleming in his report.
One, he says that “I don’t think I’ve heard a complaint quite like this one before…how many will recognize music from a film released in 1958?” WHAT? If you’re any kind of a genuine Film Catholic, which is what Academy members should ideally be (and what the best of them are), Herrmann’s Vertigo score is one of the most legendary and immediately recognizable film scores of all time — right up there with Max Steiner‘s Gone With The Wind theme and John Williams‘ bum-buhm-buhm-buhm shark them in Jaws. I’ll bet that even casual film dilletantes know Herrmann’s Vertigo score like the back of their hand, and yet Fleming is wondering “how many will recognize [it]”??
And two, Fleming writes that “one looming question is whether Novak has jeopardized her status as a voter, and violated the rules by publicly maligning a movie that is a frontrunner for Best Picture.” Apparently there’s an Academy rule found in Oscars.org that says an Academy member can’t take out an ad that trashes a film in contention for Best Picture. As far as I can discern that rule doesn’t especially or particularly apply if the film being maligned “is a fronturnner for Best Picture.”