Friday, December 23, 2011

The Artist [2011]

MPAA (PG-13) Roger Ebert (4 Stars) Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing -
Roger Ebert's review -

The Artist (written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius) is a truly creative "film lover's" movie and certainly one of the best films of the year.  Black and white and SILENT, it gives today's film-goers an opportunity to reflect on the essentials in acting, film-making and story-telling in general.  Indeed, the movie certainly confirmed for me the truth of the cliché that "90% of communication is non-verbal."

Certainly, The Artist is a "novelty piece."  I would hope that there would not be a flood of silent movies being released in coming years as a result of this movie's success.  However, The Artist is a reminder that a compelling story can be told without recourse to words.

What then is story told in this movie?  It is the story of a fictional silent screen actor named George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) for whom only the sky seemed to be the limit at exactly the time when silent films were about to be replaced by talkies.  At this point, at the height of his stardom, he accidently runs into Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice Bejo) a "nobody" actress who had just come into town and was struggling to get even a job as an "extra."  Not thinking much of it at the time, George kinda liked her (apparently for both her innocence/freshness and her spunk).  After a joking impromptu dance number that he does with her in front of his Producer/Director Al Zimmer (played by John Goodman), he inadvertantly gives her "her big break." Peppy Miller's career takes-off like a rocket-ship.

Valentin's career however is coming to an end even if he doesn't realize it initially.  Zimmer breaks the news to him: The future is in talkies.  Unwilling/unable to adapt, Valentin's star all but vanishes as public interest in silent films almost completely disappears in a matter of a couple of years.  What can he do?  He honestly does not know.  BUT ... Peppy never forgets the kindness that George showed her when she was just starting, so ...

I loved the _nice_ story.  (The trailer for the film was actually misleading.  The actual story of the film was far nicer even "hokier" than the trailer implies).  I also loved the gestures, the facial expressions, and the non-verbal acting in general in the film.  And if you do see the film, you'd probably agree that I'm not off base when I say that George Valentin's dog (Uggie apparently is his name) ought to get consideration for a "Best Supporting Actor" nomination ;-).

All in all, this film is probably not for everybody.  Kids would probably find the film boring, as would many non-film lovers.

But if you do like "chewing" on films, and wondering "what makes a film work?" then I think that this true "film lover's film" would be for you!  Congratulations writer/director Michel Hazanavicius and cast!

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1 comment:

  1. I'd say this film is for everyone and I think even some general audience people will like it. That excludes most teenagers and under who probably don't have enough attention span for a film without colour, sound and is not in widescreen. Great review of a great film!