Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The challenge of making a silent film is competing with the talking films of today. Michel Hazanavicius set out to prove to the modern movie audience that you don't need a voice to communicate a story. "The Artist" demonstrates this skill beautifully through its tongue-in-cheek moments as well as the simplicity and clever story. This is surprisingly the second film of the year to incorporate the themes of silent film. The film asks the question of how does one make the transition from a silent film to a talkie?
The film starts in 1927 Hollywoodland, as silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) refuses to believe that his star will fade with his fans for the favor of talking pictures. The story continues through the first "talkie" films that featured Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a young dancer set for a big break, whom he discovered; and the financial crisis of 1929 forcing George Valentin to his own depression. Peppy Miller is a rising star that takes on the diva role who in public slams the old silent film stars for mugging infront of the camera, but privately shows compassion for her friend and role model.
Taking in every visual cue offered by Michel Hazanavicius is important to the full appreciation of the film. Background set props remind the crew and the audience to "Please be silent". The movie titles that George Valentin and Peppy Miller are involved with provide foreshadow to their relationship with Peppy being his "Guardian Angel".
Jean Dujardin delivers a captivating and wonderful performance in every way. Whether it is his simple mugging for the camera or the classic features displaying each emotion. Complimenting this performance is the equally stunning Bérénice Bejo. Supporting performances from more familiar actors in the US were fun to watch as the audience might be more familiar with their voice only to have it muted by the silent film theme. John Goodman delivers an intense performance; contrasted by the stoic James Cromwell as the long time friend and confident to George Valentin. The scene stealer throughout the film is the four-legged star Uggie, a Jack Russell that could be a serious contender for a best dog nomination along with Cosmo from "Beginners".
"The Artist" is a unique film that stands out from the rest of the films during the year that included remakes, reboots, 3D, CGI, etc. The soundtrack of the film provides the necessary tone to the silent film. If you want to enjoy a film in its true art form this is the perfect example of what cinematic art can accomplish. With the performances of Dujardin and Bejo combined with the scoring provided by Ludovic Bource the film is a every bit a 5 Quack film.