Although I've seen several movies from the days before I was born, I've never really seen any from the silent film era. I do understand that the concept of silent movies brought something different since facial expressions and body language were the two primary ways of translating a film's message to the audience. Music also played its part and was used in the place of voices and other sounds. It was interesting watching The Artist because of things like that and it allowed me to see what people viewed as entertainment back in the day.
The Artist is a French film from director Michel Hazanavicius. It stars Jean Dujardin as actor George Valentin during the silent movie era. Valentin is a superstar of silent films and has an ego that may be as big as his celebrity. Problems arise for Mr. Valentin in the late 1920's as he starts to witness his own decline in star power when Hollywood (known as Hollywoodland at that time) adopts movies with speech known as "talkies." While his star is fading, other younger stars like Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) are beginning to skyrocket into stardom. It becomes an uphill battle for George as he not only has to fight against a new era in entertainment, but also his pride.
When I went to see this film I didn't know what to expect. I was interested in seeing how a movie with no talking would feel to me and if it would actually go over well enough for me to stay engaged. I was amazed at how well the director and the actors were able to tell a story while very rarely using any words. As the lead actor, Jean Dujardin did this with a charismatic appeal that any leading man would want. He had great stage presence and played his role wonderfully.
Aside from Dujardin's great performance, there were others that stood out as well. Starring as an aspiring actress and Dujardin's love interest, Bérénice Bejo easily left her mark on this film. She played her part with the youthful exuberance that was necessary and was delightful and innocent all the way through.
I also have to mention how good an actor like John Goodman was. He was spectacular as the domineering boss of the production company who was always at someone's throat and was never hesitant to blow up in a split second if things didn't go the way he wanted them to. His role was one the best from a pure comedic perspective. Goodman's portrayal of the angry, but friendly boss finds balance with a guy like James Cromwell and his loyal and laid back character who works for Valentin in the movie. Both men were great and their performances needed to be acknowledged.
The Artist features much more comedy than I anticipated and it starts off right at the very beginning. It's also has dramatic elements as it deals with a man coming to grips with the death of his career as he continues to resist the change that's going on around his professional and personal life. There's one particular scene that stands out to me. This scene embodies both of these things at once. It goes perfectly with the rest of the film and shows all of the drama that he's going through in comedic fashion by breaking its silence for one of the very few instances in the movie. It's one of the main turning points in the movie and caught my attention more than just about anything else did.
This film has great symmetry with its characters, story, music and appearance. The Artist has no flaws that I can think of and is entertaining until the very end. Some can say that this film is based on a gimmick, but they'd be short-changing it. It's a sincere, dramatic and funny film that obviously had a ton of work and effort put into it. There is a well thought out story that's built into a movie based on a film genre that hasn't existed in ages. The creators of this film manage to take something old and make it new and unique. I could be wrong, but I kind of expect this film to be up for a few awards in the coming future. The Artist is a great movie that should definitely be given a chance if you can find a place to view it.
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Penelope Ann Miller
Film Length: 100 minutes
Release Dates: November 25, 2011 (Limited)
Distributor: The Weinstein Company