JEAN DUJARDIN BERENICE BEJO JOHN GOODMAN JAMES CROMWELL PENELOPE ANN MILLER
As luck would have it, The Artist just won the New York Film Critics Circle best picture and director award today. I have been anxious to see this gimmick film since it’s in black and white and a silent film. With a French director, leading cast and production crew, it still has some American actors in there. I can completely appreciate why most critics seem to be fascinated with this film, and I can’t knock the novelty The Artist is presenting. Having a black and white silent film in 2011 is incredible. However, I was completely bored by this film; I could barely stay awake. There was nothing in the entire screenplay that reached out to me or moved me in anyway. It’s a completely light and fluffy movie without the usual substance you see in award winning films.
It’s the late 20’s in Hollywood and George Valentin (Dujardin) is the most popular silent actor of his day. “Talkies”, as they called them in the beginning, haven’t hit yet and Valentin is enjoying his success, even accidentally lighting the flame of Hollywood's next big star, Peppy Miller (Bejo). Peppy becomes the first big breakout star to talk in films and George refuses to adapt to the new era, leaving him washed up and bankrupt. His flirtation and attraction to Peppy is submerged by her glowing success. Peppy, never forgetting who helped her into stardom, tries to extend her hand and fame to help get George back into the lime light.
It doesn’t take long for the gimmick to wear out early on in The Artist and we realize just how important dialogue is in a film. The experience of watching The Artist reminded me of my kidney stone problem, and how I take for granted a good flow until a rock messes all that up. What director Hazanavicius does here is present today’s world with a flashback of cinema in it's early days. I can’t fault this entire production, which is really beautiful from the art direction to Bejo’s extraordinary smile. I crave that conversation and dialogue in a film and without it I was completely bored.
Hugo, My Week with Marilyn and now The Artist are all films about Hollywood days of old. That appears to be one of this year’s obvious themes and it’s wonderful to celebrate how we got to where we are today, but the problem is that we are so familiarized with what we know and I think a lot of people will find this film as difficult to endure as I did.
Final Thought – I appreciate what’s happening here, but it bored me to sleep.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This black and white silent film has a soft, velvety appearance, more noticeable perhaps because of minimal dialog. Its success derives from a number of factors, one of which is a brief history in the art of filmmaking. Before the invention of sound in pictures, the filmmakers had to figure out how to tell a story nonverbally, which highlights the movie sets and the actors’ appearances and expressions. Its success also derives from the four main characters (Jean Dujardin as George Valentin, Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller, John Goodman as Al Zimmer, and the dog), who are masters at conveying all kinds of messages and emotions. The dog was especially entertaining in restraining, comforting, and actually saving George. Not to be overlooked is the strong silent steadiness of George’s butler/driver, Clifton (James Cromwell). The star, Jean Dujardin, is a natural for this medium, and he and Berenice Bejo are captivating in their dancing and budding attraction to one another.
Another strong feature of the movie is the story of how a self-centered, prideful man has to lose everything before he can learn the basics of being a part of a community and sharing the limelight. He is very fortunate to have so many people ready to step up and give him a hand and save him from himself.
Adding to the beauty of the film is the musical score (Ludovic Bource), which also contributes to storytelling and emotional tone. The director Michel Hazanavicius is to be congratulated for coming up with the idea of a silent film, giving it purpose and relevance, and leading the cast and crew toward what is sure to be an award-winning success.