Ruby Movie Reviews: The Artist

January 29, 2012

I saw an advanced screening of The Artist today and felt that it deserved its own review as I loved it that much. But just quickly, a little bit of background on my interest in this film. I have been passionate about silent cinema for years now. I was totally obsessed with it in high school and all of my year 12 art was about my favourite silent comedians. It all started when I read a book about Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and progressed to a massive love affair with silent comedy, in particular Buster Keaton (the guy pictured in my movie review header, as a matter of fact). Ever since then the golden era of Hollywood silent film is one of my favourite eras of cinema. It was a simpler time where so much could be conveyed without the need to resort to lots of talking (though I am also a huge fan of film noir of the 1940s which was the complete opposite of silent film, but I won’t go into that just now). So naturally, when I heard about this film many months ago, I was thrilled and have been counting down the weeks and days until I was finally able to see it.

The Artist is about famous Hollywood actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who is the king of silent cinema. A chance encounter with a female fan, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) propels her into the public eye and due to her peppy (heh) nature and good looks she quickly starts to rise as a new star. Two years pass and as George’s home life starts to deteriorate, he is told by studio boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) that they will cease production on all silent films and start making talkies. George is repelled by the thought of talking pictures and vows to make his own silent films by directing and staring in his own picture. But unfortunately for George, no one is interested in silent films any more and when his film is released, it is overshadowed by Peppy’s new talkie which is released on the same day. So begins George’s descent into obscurity, mostly because he is too proud to conform. His wife leaves him and within a few years winds up in a tiny apartment with his dog Jack (Uggie) and and alcohol problem. Meanwhile Peppy is the new big thing and the new darling of Hollywood, though she never stops thinking about George who helped her get where she is.

The most important thing you need to know about the film is that it is a silent film. Not just that it doesn’t have spoken dialogue, it is completely filmed in the same style as many silent films from the 1920s. Instead there is a wonderful music track that helps tell the story. The style of acting is even quite similar to how silent films were acted, with some slight exaggeration in order to convey emotions, though not enough to become hammy. They use title cards throughout, but nowhere near as many as you might expect for a modern silent film. There is actually small amount of proper audio, but I won’t elaborate on when they occur of why they’re there because that would give too much away. I know there will be a lot of people who will find this whole concept really bizarre and might not be able to enjoy it at first, which is why I’d suggest people to check out a few silent movies on youtube to get their head around how they work. It’s not all slapstick, fast motion, lingering looks and title cards telling you what was just said, there’s a fine and subtle art to how it all works and I’d hate for anyone to hate this movie because they don’t  get how silent films work.

Can I just say Jean Dujardin is my new movie star crush? Without him this film might not have been all that great. He embodies the silent movie star persona and never have I seen such fantastic acting. The way he can convey emotions without a single word is mind blowing! Plus he looks just like the classic Hollywood actor, clearly based on the likes of Douglas Fairbanks or Gene Kelly. He just… stole my heart! The way he could make the audience laugh and cry without actually saying a thing is no small feat. I don’t know if he is a dancer, but the way he danced in the film was so effortless, like he’d been doing it all his life. Amazing! Of course the other actors were terrific, but basically none of them manner in comparison to Jean.

OK I could gush for hours about how good this film is, but I won’t because I INSIST THAT YOU GO AND SEE IT. I know I recommend you go see a lot of the films I review BUT you can forget all of them right now and go see this film as soon as you possibly can. I want everyone to see what I can honestly say is one of the greatest films I have ever seen. After all, it’s been nominated for 10 Academy Awards and has won dozens of others all over the world. Please do yourself a favour and go see it. Hell, I plan to see it at least another couple of times so hit me up if you want someone to go with. I cannot praise it enough! I kind of feel like that crazy cat girl from youtube who just wants to hug all of the cats in the world, except I want to see every single screening of this movie ever!

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