Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Oscars 2011 — THE ARTIST

There is likely no other movie quite as eminently enjoyable this year than The Artist

It's pretty simple, really: The Artist is a clever, wonderful, nostalgic jewel of a film, and a refreshing breath of originality. Director Michel Hazavanicius has a winner on his hands: The Artist is an absolute front-runner for Best Picture, and it is not to be missed.

Jean Dujardin (winner of this year's Best Actor award at Cannes) plays George Valentin, a silent film superstar. Business is booming, and Hollywood is happy. But then the inevitable dagger of innovation is thrust into the heart of the silent film industry, and the talkies are born. The studios, desperate for a new face to dominate the realm of the audible, find Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a complete nobody, and she is flung into the spotlight. Dujardin, broke and out of work, enters depression. 

The most peculiar aspect of the film is its return to the root of the art form, at least aesthetically. The Artist is a silent film about a silent film star in a talking world. But it's also black-and-white. In 2011, that's a hard sell: imagine telling your friends about a great new film that's both "silent and black-and-white." Expect odd looks. But don't let the intentional tech limitations fool you — it's part of the irresistible charm of it all. 

Hating a film like The Artist probably says more about you than it does the film, which is utterly devoid of pretension. Unless you consider joy a difficult emotion to express, there isn't much to dislike here. This is blissful cinema; an experience that will strain your cheek muscles from grinning too much. 

The smiles in this film are infectious.
Even though it's technically a silent film, The Artist still uses sound extremely effectively. There are moments of sound that arrive as punchlines or surprise gags, and when they happen, they're positively dynamite. They pepper the film only slightly, but every time you hear something that's not orchestral soundtracks, you will be shocked. (It's amazing how easy you become accustomed to the silence. Movies are so loud nowadays.) Dog lovers are also sure to melt in their seats, as George Valentin's little Jack Russell terrier nearly steals the show. That mutt is super talented!

Don't let The Artist pass you by. While it's difficult to entertain the idea that a silent film can be exciting to a large group of people, the result is positively brilliant. Is it the Best Picture of the year? I'm not sure. Is it the most pleasurable? Quite possibly; and it's likely a film to be remembered for years to come. 

(4/4)

3 comments:

  1. "While it's difficult to entertain the idea that a a silent film can be exciting to a large group of people, the result is positively brilliant." If you're such a movie expert, why is this idea that silent films can be exciting to audiences so "difficult to entertain"?

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  2. I like silent films, but there's a strong sense that they're, well, boring. At least, to today's audiences.

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  3. "Hating a film like The Artist probably says more about you than it does the film, which is utterly devoid of pretension."

    It's one thing to disagree with people - it's another to dismiss any possibility of valid disagreement! As for the whole "pretentious" thing, I tend to think that people like you and I, who are in the business of decreeing from on high the objective worth of artworks after we've seen them at exclusive film festival screenings, should think really hard before slinging that term around as a negative.

    (Good review otherwise! For the record, I like this movie quite a bit!)

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