Time/place: 1:00 showing at University 6
I read about a modern silent movie being made, some time ago, and my interest was piqued… but I forgot about it. When I first saw the trailer for The Artist, my interest came right back – and tripled :). I’m happy to say that I was not at all disappointed.
This movie is not a “method actor” when it comes to taking the idea of being a silent movie completely seriously. It IS, however, a loving tribute to the era (and artists, in general, which I’ll mention below). The Artist plays with the conventions of a silent movie… in ways I won’t spoil, here. It’s all there, of course: title cards, the music, very visual performances and camerawork, but for those who go into this movie expecting a pure recreation of a movie as it would be if made in the pre-talkies period, there’s more to it than that.
Technically, I loved everything. The one thing that often makes silent-era movies boring, for me, is the music. It’s constant, bland, and doesn’t always work for me in the way that I’m accustomed to. Not every silent movie is that way, for sure, but The Artist is obviously made in a modern world… and I think it benefits from that. The score fits the on-screen beats wonderfully, and I was actually surprised by how often the audio dropped out completely – always for a great emphasis, though. I’ve always talked about movies only needing beautiful images and music, and this one does NOT fall short in either category… especially with its images. The Artist is one of the prettiest movies I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s a necessity, sure, to create great visual interest when there’s no dialogue/sound, but I was constantly pleased to see that the moviemakers really pulled off some beautiful cinematography. There are some visual treats and surprises, but I’ll let you discover those on your own :).
Likewise, the story itself, I won’t go into. If the basic premise in the trailer interests you, just go see it. The Artist doesn’t have the most complicated story ever told, but it doesn’t have to. It’s far from just a “gimmick” movie, and beyond everything else the story says, I loved its representation of an artist. Heck, it’s the darn title of the movie. There’s a love story, sure, and I actually really, REALLY loved how it plays out (especially the ending), but the bigger arc involves the art and its creator. It deals with frustration, pride, and the ups and downs that comes with artistry, and it does so against one of the most obvious divides in movie-making history – the transition from silent movies to talkies.
Selling us this lovely story, are some fine actors. In a silent movie, a poor actor could do too much or too little, but I think everyone here nailed it just right. There is some silent-era hamming it up, certainly, but that’s part of the movie’s charm. It’s a big ode to that period of time, and it never comes across as over-the-top or mocking. Speaking of charm… I can’t leave this without saying that lil’ dog deserves top billing. He steals every scene, is the perfect best-friend/comic-relief, provides one of the most heart-breaking moments, and is darn adorable. Not to put down the human actors, of course, because they were all great… I just had to mention that little guy, and I could do so without spoiling anything. I will say, though, that the lead actress has a moment of tears that impressed the heck out of me for its reality… even while being confined within this particular genre (meaning, the crying isn’t ugly and “real” in a modern sense, but it was far more genuine and “real” than what a silent-era performance would normally produce).
The Artist was even more than I was thinking it might be, and I can wholeheartedly agree with the critical attention it’s getting. Next week it moves to two other theaters in southern Orange County, but I hope it garners enough success to spread even more. It really is a fantastically charming and fun movie, in a classic, feel-good kinda way… exactly as it should be :).