By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
The year is 1927, and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is on the top of the world. He and his dog Jack are the stars of a massively successful series of films. Through a happy accident Valentin discovers Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a young woman with a passion for acting. Through his encouragement her career begins to flourish, just as Valentin’s begins a sharp decline. Several years later, the era of “Talkies” has arrived, and Peppy is a star of the screen. Meanwhile Valentin is in the depths of depression, selling off his valuables, and drinking heavily. Will fate bring the two together? What will happen next?
Find out tomorrow, same bat-time, same bat channel
Armchair critics the world over sometimes forget the sheer pleasure of watching a simple story told well. If this same plot was presented in any other way, it would have been dismissed as ordinary (which it is), cliched (which it is), and melodramatic (which it is). The choice to film silent is just as much a utilitarian decision as it is an aesthetic one. Without it, The Artist would simply not have worked. All of the ingredients for a paint-by-numbers dramedy are washed away from consciousness through the subtraction of audible dialog. All this is done without the vibe that you’re watching a creepy mime movie.
I am so sorry…
Director Michel Hazanavicius set out to create a modern day silent film, and that much is accomplished. However, there is much more to The Artist than a novelty concept. He is helped by actors Dujardin and Bejo, who are given the rather thankless task of evoking emotion from body language alone. They manage the feat and then some; the lack of spoken dialog is not missed in the least. Hazanavicius uses primitive editing, grainy black-and white film stock, and camera techniques inspired directly from the period.
Film is often called a visual medium, which is a fallacy, as sound, color, and light are no less important to film as an art. Even in the silent era use of the wrong music in a scene could have completely blown the mood (with thanks to tubedubber). The music used in The Artist perfectly compliments each scene, and the few moments which use synchronized sound use it to such extraordinary success as to draw comparison to Charlie Chaplain’s Modern Times (not a bad film to be compared with).
Like Scorsese’s Hugo, The Artist is a loveletter to the silent era. And a beautiful one.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when Valentin takes a drink
Take a Drink: when the dog performs a trick
Take a Drink: whenever a speech card is used
Drink a Shot: any time you get a montage