The Artist

The less you know about The Artist going in, the more likely you will be to go see it. The Artist is one of those movies that has certain elements associated with it that may diminish your interest in seeing it. It’s like last year’s movie The Social Network. No matter how much I tried to convince people that it was a great movie worth seeing, people were just turned off by the idea of a movie about Facebook.

So when asked what The Artist is about, I would reply ‘I can’t tell you, if I did, you wouldn’t want to see it.’ Even by choosing my words carefully to describe it, and to make it sound as interesting as possible, certain words would inevitably need to be used that I knew would have a negative effect on the listener.

Let’s do this. I will be as blunt as possible and get all the offending words out of the way first. Then I will ask you to forget about all that because this movie is so lovingly made, that it will transcend any negative effect of these words. 

OK here goes: It’s a love story, it’s black & white and it’s a silent film, filmed in 1.33: 1 aspect ratio. (not widescreen) and no Dolby digital surround sound.

Now, unless you’re a fan of silent films, forget the previous sentence because despite all that, this is a new film, not an old one from the 20s, although it is set in the Hollywood of the 1920s and 30s. It follows a Hollywood silent film star at the beginning of the sound era in movies, marking the end of the silent film. Many silent films stars were not able to make the transition to sound as they were mostly physical actors more like stunt men in many ways. It was particularly sad for the big stars like Buster Keaton who tried to adapt their style of comedy to sound films but were just not successful. Such incredible talents were instantly made obsolete and a whole art form vanished overnight. 

The effect was devastating for silent actors and The Artist, which is filmed and performed in the style of an authentic silent film, shows the decline of a dashing Douglas Fairbanks type of silent leading man after sound revolutionized the film industry and killed his career. 

The film also has lots of heart, humor, and charm, and after you get used to the silence of the film (there is only a music track) and begin to appreciate the physical performances and expressions through body language and visual art, you really get a sense of how alien sound must have seemed when it first arrived and added a whole new dimension to film.

The Artist is full of wonderful visual homages commonly used in silent films to communicate emotions and ideas to the audience and it recreates old Hollywood so realistically that you think you are actually seeing a silent film from the time. Also lovingly recreated is the acting style and filming style of the time. The film pulls you in with its excellent cast of relatively unknown actors and a compelling story that’s funny, sad and emotionally satisfying in a wholesome way that’s appropriate for the time period.

The Artist proves that you don’t need sound or color or digital effects to tell a great story or make a great film. Unfortunately, The Artist will probably never reach a big audience precisely because it doesn't have the trappings of a modern movie. But it has recently won a number of prestigious awards that should help it find a bigger audience, including The Oscar for Best Picture, Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Actor (Jean Dujardin), Costume and Original Score, The Critic's Choice Movie Award for Best Picture, The Golden Globe Award for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical), and 7 British Film Awards (BAFTA) including Best Picture.

Also see Jean Dujardin in the very funny French spy comedies, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and its sequel OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009), by the same director of The Artist.



Sandra McLeod Humphrey said...

You've got me totally intrigued and now I have to see it!

Amy Hall Internet Marketing Specialist said...

It's a little strange to leave the blog post to make a comment.

I hadn't heard of this movie before, but now I'm really looking forward to seeing it!

Michael Charney said...

I've heard nothing but great things about this film, and definitely plan to see it. For anyone not sure, here's the deal: go if you want to see "art" with a capital "A." They just don't make movies this way anymore....

LH said...

I was skeptical, but you've convinced me. I'm going to see it!

Jeannette Paladino said...

I loved The Artist for all the reasons you mention in your post. In ballet, when dancers act out roles it's called mime. It is not easy to use physical expression to convey emotions. The actors in The Artist caught the time and place brilliantly.

Fatima said...

Thank you for the review John; I think I too am sold. Hoping for a good experience.