I Saw A Film Today… The Artist

It is only in recent weeks that I have subjected myself to the magic of silent filmography. I found out that on Sundays, Turner Classic Movies has what they call Silent Sundays where they show an assortment of different silent films. This era of film-making, I’ve come to learn, is simply beautiful. Since actors could not rely on their voices, they instead had to use emotions and body language. You at times had to do the interpretation of what was taking place, which meant participation on our part. So when my local theater received The Artist this week (along with other Oscar hopefuls), I was quite thrilled and curious to see it.

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The year is 1927 and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest film star in Hollywood. And like the stereotyped film star of that day, he is a rather arrogant and vane creature. At one of his premiers he literally bumps into a fan that goes by the name Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who lands the chance of a lifetime the next day by getting a small part in one of George’s films where both make a strong connection.

Peppy begins moving up the ranks in film and eventually becomes a leading lady. This is also happening during a important transition for film by the introduction of the talkies. Unfortunately George’s reluctance to the new technology has made him an obsolete performer.

Things only get worse for George here. His wife leaves him. He loses his home and is forced to move into a small apartment. He forces his loyal driver (James Cromwell) to leave his employ. All he has is his dog (Uggie). Will George ever get back to star status?

In order to preserve the magic of this film, I have tried to leave this description as bare as possible. And when I say magic I mean it is truly a magical film. Honestly when I originally read that about this film, I thought that it was going to be gimmicky. But it was quite the opposite. Yes, it was self aware of it’s genre and occasionally made light of it, but at it’s core it was just a romantic film that happened to be silent.

Usually at some point in a film, no matter the quality, I check my watch at least once. Some films warrant more. Like checking Facebook or trying to remember your Myspace password. With The Artist I never did. I was so enamored by the love story between George and Peppy that it felt like time stood still.

Does my generation have too short of an attention span to find a film of this nature appealing? I thoroughly enjoyed it. But are others just not interested in a film that’s only audio for 99% of the film is music? Not only this but for a film of this type you must have a certain amount of patience and imagination. Sometimes you have to interpret what is being said or (more importantly) not said. And just based on unscientific observation of people near my age and below, this may prove too difficult. Pity.

Jean Dujardin is nothing short of brilliant in this film. He was possibly born in the wrong era of film-making. He is so natural in expressing himself without the necessity of words. But his performance wouldn’t be nearly as effective without Bérénice Bejo. The two together are simply magical. which seems to be a word I’ve used frequently so far. I really think miss Bejo could be the next hot actress in Hollywood.

The supporting cast is great as well. Seeing such names as John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Malcolm McDowell in a project such as this gives one a very warm feeling. And that dog. You can’t forget that bloody adorable dog.

If I have not said it enough in this short review, I’ll say it again: The Artist is pure magic. I laughed. I cried. I marveled. It is one of the best films of 2011 and I have no doubt that it could easily snatch the Oscar. J’adore L’Artiste!

Verdict: SEE IT!

*Rated PG-13 for a disturbing image and a crude gesture

**The “crude gesture” is the bird and I don’t really know what the “disturbing image” is. Then again I doubt the MPAA does either.

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