It took me forever to watch The Artist. I mean, a modern silent movie, with a plot screaming Singing in the Rain and a trailer that seems to give away the whole movie?
I had zero expectations when I finally watched it and was utterly amazed.
The movie is about George Valentin, a silent movie star who gets fired when the studios start producing talking movies. His career is being destroyed while the one of a charming up and comer actress is rising. The so conveniently called Peppy Miller was helped into fame by George and to make matters worse they might be in love with each other.
The Artist is one of those movies that demand something from the viewers and then reward them for it. It wasn’t so difficult to get used to the lack of sound because I actually enjoy watching Buster Keaton’s silent movies. But for some, inferring what’s going on only by gestures and facial expressions might be a challenge.
However, this work is necessary in order to understand what the movie is expressing. We need to understand George’s facial expressions and gestures, because he won’t talk about his pain, not only because it’s a silent movie but because he is proud.
By the way, how amazing is Jean Dujardin, the actor who plays George?
He has that old days face, he is vintage handsome. He also has that positive, upbeat attitude that is almost non-existent in today’s Hollywood stars. There’s a scene where a huge crowd is trying to get to him – photographers, reporters, fans, cops are all around him. And he is truly having fun, he is not faking being happy. Right after posing in a seductive way for a photographer he breaks out laughing.
Also, look out for the rich visual metaphors. You can do a little The Artist drinking game, everybody drinks up every time a mirror appears on screen. They are everywhere. Not only mirrors, but all types of reflection – the spilled water, the shadow in the projection wall, the reflection on a window store.
They are all clues of Valentin’s disintegrated self. Because of this, it reminds me so much of The Fall. People use stories to understand themselves better. They want self-knowledge or at least world knowledge.
The movie is so good that we get George’s struggles, they seem genuine, which is something I did see in My week with Marilyn, for example.
It’s interesting to see that when movie directors want to talk about the passion for cinema they tend to return to silent movies. They are not only paying homages to silent movies but also learning from them. It shows that directors still have a passion and enthusiasm for movies as if movie making had begun only a couple of years ago.
Have you seen the Artist? What did you think of the use of sound?