Silence is golden. At least that’s what the movie theaters will tell you. But in this case it’s not the audience that’s being referenced, it’s the movie itself. Yes, The Artist, directed by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, is a black and white silent film taking place in the 1920’s-30’s. Many will step in and say things like “now why in the world would I pay to see a SILENT film”. I can honestly see where they are coming from. Audience members today are not used to this type of movie and may not be ready to handle this sort of throwback to the early days of cinema. This is how film used to be and it’s nice to see a glimpse of it. Personally, I prefer talkies (I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t), but every know and then something different is a good thing. The Artist takes us away from the mindless action pictures and the sappy dramas, and instead shows us what Hollywood was like in the early days. To me, that’s a really cool thing.
The story is a very simple one. That is both a blessing and a curse. Because with a light storyline and predictable outcome there is no room for any real surprise while watching. It felt very much like the classic 1950’s musical, Singin’ In The Rain, to be quite honest. But it was also fun to see a story like this. One about the history of show business in the early 1900’s. It not only gives us a fun time while watching, but it in of itself is a celebration of the magic that movies bring. The shots of a live audience during the film screenings within the movie were so fun to watch because it made me realize what a big deal going to the movies was back then. People would get all dressed up in tuxedos and dresses and they even had a live orchestra play the music to go along with the film live. Compare that to today’s audience members who come in with t-shirts and flip flops who play with there phones during the movie. All in all, it was fun watching how it was presented back in the day.
The performances are better than you would expect them to be, because the actors must express everything with actions instead of words and it works out well for them. Jean Dujardin gives a fun and energetic performance as the silent film actor who has lost his touch because the new studio system, but the one who really won me over was Berenice Bejo, playing the the new kid on the block with dreams of becoming an actress. Her performance was filled with a ton of joy and emotion, and made for my favorite supporting actress performance of the year. John Goodman also come on screen at the studio executive, which was a nice move on the filmmakers parts, because even though it’s great to get new faces out to the American public, it’s also nice to see a familiar face or two.
It’s hard to talk about some of my favorite scenes on the movie because most of them are considered “surprises”, surprises that gave me a huge smile and an appreciation for this type of film making. The only real hate you are likely to hear for this movie is going to come from people who have either never seen it or didn’t know going in that it was a silent film. The aspect ratio is even smaller of screen so that it can give you the feeling of a real “old” movie. But most people would consider that to be a negative. I would recommend this film to only true film fans, ones who can appreciate the ambitious nature of a studio production like this and one that can have fun with something new and something out of their comfort zone.
Go in with an open mind and give the film a chance. You’ll be surprised how much silence can impact you.