[Review] The Artist

SILENCE IN A 3D WORLD

It’s Hollywood 1927.  A silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) meets fan and aspiring actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), and they are immediately taken with each other.  With the introduction of talkies, Valentin refuses to believe that talkies are anything more than a fad.  However, the public is eager to see more talkies and the studio wants to deliver.  Valentin starts to become a fading memory while Peppy’s fame rises to the top.

It’s Oscar time and this movie is what everyone has been talking about for weeks.  The film is a silent film.  I know what you’re thinking.  Seriously, a major portion of the film is silent where you will be periodically reading dialogue cards.  I’ve had to see many of these as part of my film courses in college and I have to admit that I’ve dozed off during some of them.  We’re from a generation where we’re bombarded by sensory overload that it’s hard to suddenly turn one of your senses off and stay focused.

However, this isn’t your average silent movie.  They definitely updated things because there are some elements to the film that I don’t think the Hays Code would allow.  The Hays Code was a popular name for the Motion Picture Production Code as William Hays was the chief censor.  Today the guidelines are updated and governed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) which is responsible for the movie rating system.

First off, we’ve heard this story before.  It’s reminiscent of the storyline of the movie musical starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds called Singin’ In the Rain.  However, it’s like being sucked into the Twilight Zone.  Our star is not in favor of the talkies, in fact, he’s dead set against it.  Jean Dujardin seems like a crossover between Gene Kelly and Clark Gable.  Maybe resembles Sean Connery a bit.  Dashing, a little arrogant but full of charm.  And through him we see his hard downfall from Hollywood grace.

Bérénice Bejo is a little Betty Boop, Mary Pickford and Greta Garbo all rolled into one.  Peppy falls for Valentin and when he falls on hard time, she secretly tries to help him.

And Valentin’s dog, Jack.  Man, can that dog be any cuter?  Okay, he definitely deserves an Oscar.  There is this shot where the dog and Valentin match head movements.  It’s so charming and impressive.  I’m a sucker for dog who can do tricks.

Since the film is silent, it mostly aided by the music.  The score feels like it’s from another era and I believe they even used some of Bernard Herrmann’s score from Vertigo.  The film is shown in the 1.33:1 ratio and it might be a little unusual for audiences to see this format today.  However, the director, Michel Hazanavicius, wanted to showcase the actors as the stars faces occupy most of the screen.  I think that was a great move as for the audience, we don’t have much to go on beyond the actor’s expressions and reactions.

The film is a complete gimmick.  To entice me to see it because of the fact that it’s a silent film in the age of 3D movies.  For film buffs, try to see if you can recognize all the references the film makes to old Hollywood and classic movies.  However, the film’s melo pace in the latter part of the film makes things look bleak but then it ends up being surprisingly feel-good.  For that, I’ve fallen for the film: hook, line and sinker.

Rating

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4 thoughts on “[Review] The Artist

  1. This was a very well-made film and had its moments where it captures the whole spirit and essence of the silent film era but it’s not that life-changing experience that everybody says it is. Still, a good flick though and I do think it does still deserve the Best Picture Oscar just because I don’t think The Descendants would be a very good winner that will last for the ages. Good review.

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