The Artist (starring Jean Dujardin)
Many years ago, I set out to watch all of Charlie Chaplin’s famous films. That was my first foray into silent, black and white movies and although they should be respected for how groundbreaking they were in terms of cinema, my general feeling was that silent movies had their time and place. I ended my run on silent, black and white movies thankful for how far Hollywood has come over the years, both artistically and technologically. So with that in mind, I probably felt the same way going into THE ARTIST many of you will feel; who needs another silent, black and white film when I can go watch AVATAR for the fifth time?
The story is right out of classic Hollywood; a young, up and coming actress, Peppy (Bérénice Bejo), becomes enamored with the dashing, handsome movie star, George (Jean Dujardin). But with the invention of “the talkie” (very reminiscent of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN), the once famous movie star is left clinging to the world of silent films while the former struggling actress becomes a sensation with a starring role in a “talkie”. The golden era of 1920’s Hollywood shines through the film, which only serves to heighten the nostalgic feeling of watching a silent, black and white film.
There’s something hard to pinpoint about THE ARTIST, but as the film finishes, you want to stand up and cheer. Without the use of talking or color, director Michel Hazanavicius managed to tell a story was both fascinating and heartfelt. The audience cared about Peppy and George and as things intervened to bring them closer together or further apart, we felt it. There’s definitely some old Hollywood charm working in THE ARTIST, but more than that, it’s a demonstration of skilled storytelling.
The film is helped greatly by two amazing performances from Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. Although unknown to most American audiences, both are stars internationally, with a large body of work between them. Hazanavicius had an advantage when it came to assembling his cast, as he didn’t have to worry about accents since the film was silent. That allowed him to cast French actors as well as American actors (recognizable faces like John Goodman and James Cromwell), all of which seemed to fit perfectly in their roles. And even though there was no dialogue, I would say that made their job much harder as every emotion and feeling had to be conveyed through actual acting (gasp!).
I don’t want to see a silent, black and white film every weekend, but THE ARTIST proved that there’s more to movies than color and dialogue. All the great movies have the same thing in common; heart. A movie with characters you’re interested in an situations you care about is the most important aspect of a film and a film can achieve that a number of different ways. THE ARTIST manages to succeed as a film and it didn’t take long for the audience to not care it was absent of dialogue or color. In this day and age of TRANSFORMERS movies, where everything is an assault on the eyes and ears but not much manages to touch the heart, THE ARTIST is a welcomed reminder as to what a great film can be.