What was the last time you saw a silent movie? The answer will probably that most people won’t have seen one in a while, either because they feel like it’s not worth checking out or simply “because it’s in black and white” or “has no sound”. I never understood those reasons as I regularly check out older movies (Jeanne D’Arc being a memorable one for example) which are watching just as much as newer ones. Will the Oscar buzz surrounding The Artist change people’s mind about not watching something like this? I hope it does as this was one I really enjoyed.
The Artist is a throwback to the era when the movie viewing public watched movies in black and white, without sound and where title cards were used for dialogue. It isn’t only set during that era, it also uses this style itself. It’s a bold move to make a movie like that today, but it has been done faithfully and results in a movie that feels fresh. Is it a gimmick? I think it partly is, but because of my love of movies I did enjoy it more than expected.
The story is about George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who is one of the biggest silent movie stars there is. He’s extremely popular, but once the “talkies” are introduced he’s not interested in making them as he feels people don’t want sound. It turns out to be a bad bet and his life starts to fall apart. During one of his silent movies he met a young new actress called Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and the movie also shows her rise to stardom. While one rises the other falls and it’s this dynamic which is the subject of the movie. It reminded me strongly of something like Singin’ in the Rain, which is set during the same time period.
As this is a silent movie it means that acting has to be a bit different compared to the way it is done in other movies. Facial expressions are much more important and the two leads manage to do this exceptionally well and it’s what gives this movie its charm. As for the supporting cast like John Goodman and James Cromwell I can’t say the same. I really felt they were acting the same way as they do would this be a “normal” movie and for me that didn’t work here.
The Artist won me over on its feeling of nostalgia and it’s obvious director Michel Hazanavicius loves the era. The story might be too simple for some, but if you are someone who enjoys the classic silent movies I think you might just like this one too.