Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: The Artist

Title: The Artist
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell and many more.
Synopsis: Outside a movie premiere, enthusiastic fan Peppy Miller literally bumps into the swashbuckling hero of the silent film, George Valentin. The star reacts graciously and Peppy plants a kiss on his cheek as they are surrounded by photographers. The headlines demand: "Who's That Girl?" and Peppy is inspired to audition for a dancing bit-part at the studio. However as Peppy slowly rises through the industry, the introduction of talking-pictures turns Valentin's world upside-down.

When the modern film audience decides to go to a movie, they don't usually think of seeing a silent film. I decided to ask twenty four people if they'd ever seen a silent film. Their ages ranged from sixteen to fifty six to give a bit more variety. Out of the twenty four questioned, a meager three had seen a silent film. Some of their responses were comical. 'Had they not invented sound yet?' 'Was it a gimmick to make people watch?' 'We talk all the time. Wouldn't it naturally have had sound?' The black and white quality of the film also turned off the younger generation. This outlook only furthered my need to educate younger generations about the classical era of cinema.

I saw the Artist alone in an empty theater before the doors had even opened. I'd wanted it this way. You may be wondering why. I was afraid that the sounds of candy unwrapping, popcorn crunching and sodas slurping would detract from the film's impact. In a way, I was right. There were moments in the film where even a sigh would seem overwhelming. At other times, as the music swells, you find yourself bracing for an emotional moment.

You'll find no wild sex, no glaring visuals or intense action in this film. With that said, this is not a film for a hopeless romantic. There are no sparkling vampires or horny werewolves. The Artist is a movie about a man reaching his breaking point, only to battle his pride in an attempt to rise from the ashes. There are moments of love from the spark of attraction, to unwavering companionship and a dying love. The most intense of all is the love for one's craft. How far will a man go to retain what he loves and believes in at the turn of an era? What do you do when all the adoration falls away?

The cast, particularly lead actor Jean Dujardin, do an outstanding job in convincing you of their emotions without the words behind them. From a sly smirk or the simple swing of an arm, you find yourself understanding what the character is feeling. Even though it is a silent movie, there are moments where there are no caption clips at all. You simply have to infer on what the character is saying or thinking. It is in those moments where I found myself enjoying the film most. The animal actor, George Valentin's beloved costar and pet, nearly steals each scene that he's in. I do have to say that the dream sequence was by far my favorite part. Oh, another thing to watch for is the dancing. Yes, dancing. No, not the booty shaking that the younger generation enjoys so much. Old Hollywood was rather fond of elegant waltzing and tap dancing. It's something I miss in modern cinema.

Don't let the silence stop you from experiencing a nostalgic take on storytelling. The Artist will not leave you on the edge of your seat or gripping the armrest in suspense. It will leave you with a sense of longing for a time past.  If you allow me to influence one thing about your film experience, take a moment to set aside your preconceived notions and enjoy the Artist for what it is.  It's a breath of fresh air among all the stale remakes that Hollywood is constantly forcing down our throats.

Rating: 3/5

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