The Artist

The Artist at first appears to be a throw back to the classic days of the silent film industry, when men dressed in their best suits, took their women to cinemas, and were treated to a live orchestra that added personality to a wordless picture.

But this is not what The Artist is, not really.

The Artist is in fact throw back to that age when cinema was still unsure of itself.  The age, well after “talkies” had established themselves as the dominant form of entertainment.  The Artist is a picture that reaches out to the 50’s and longs to connect to this very specific era of films.

To qualify The Artist, it is what would have happened had Billy Wilder directed Singin’ in the Rain.  Like other films that have told a similar story before it, The Artist deals with the affect that the paradigm shift, from silent to talking pictures, had on the actors that had once been larger than life.

At the centre of this story is George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent film star that is quickly becoming obsolete.

Dujardin is a dead ringer for Gene Kelly minus the voice, which makes him a natural choice for the role.  Unlike Kelly’s character in the afore mention Singin’ in the Rain though, the transition was not seamless.  Valentin has trouble adapting to his new status and ends up resembling Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard antagonist.

One notable stand out from the film is Berenice Bejo, who plays Peppy Miller, up-and-coming star and love interest of Valentin. Bejo’s performance has not yet secured any major nominations, but there were many scenes that Bejo was able to steal from Dujardin.  And that wasn’t an easy thing to do

What is really special about this film is not its originality, because almost nothing about the film is original.  Its shooting techniques predate Citizen Kane and it is a story that has been done to death.  This film is special though. It tells a story in the way that it was meant to be told, but in a way that had never previously been done.

The film examines the silent film era, and the subsequent culture shift that emerged with the talking film, but it did so in the former medium.  Brilliantly, this allows Michel Hazanavicius to tell and old story, in a fresh way.

The medium allows the film to be funny in a way that it wouldn’t have had it relied on words, which is important.  There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a concept film that leans too heavily on its concept without actually doing anything with it.  That being said, this film will probably be over-liked.

It is a perfectly good film but it comes nowhere close to reaching the levels of humour or emotion of Charlie Chaplain’s The Kid did.  Perhaps that is an un-fair comparison, but that only speaks to how good the movie was, that it can even be compared, quality wise, to The Kid.

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2 Comments

  1. Cary Grant was not in Singing in the Rain. Gene Kelly was.

    Reply
  2. 100 per cent right, I meant Gene Kelly but for some reason the two names are interchangeable in my head, and so is Grace Kelly, which does all sorts of crazy things to conversations.

    Reply

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