TGIF, sweet readers! I tell you what, MLK Day off or no, it’s been a long one. I hope you guys have had a less crazy week than I have! One constant that I have been all too happy to devote some attention to these last few weeks is my Resolutions series and all of the glorious guests who have been participating–glorious guests like today’s Miss Anna of Film Grimoire! Anna has all kinds of movie goodness over at her blog, not to mention one of the coolest headers ever, so be sure to pop over and say hello if you haven’t already had the pleasure of making her acquaintance. Let’s see what she had to say about her movie resolution, shall we?
A silent film about the silent film era and emergence of the “talking picture”, The Artist (2011, dir. Michel Hazanavicius) is an enchanting piece of cinema that has become the most awarded French film in history. The Artist introduces its audience to George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), whose silent film career is extremely successful. One day he is bumped into by a young woman named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), and she becomes the talk of the town. The story parallels George Valentin’s career change as the “talkie” film becomes more popular, and as Peppy Miller’s career takes off.
The Artist won Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards. Michel Hazanavicius won Best Director. Jean Dujardin’s charming performance as George Valentin won Best Actor. The film also won for Best Original Score and Best Costume Design. Can you believe I had never seen this film until the other day? This is the reason why I need blogging events like Cara’s Resolutions series because otherwise I would miss out on gems like this.
I absolutely loved this film and was spellbound by it for the totality of its duration. I loved Jean Dujardin’s extremely suave yet also desperately emotive performance as George Valentin. He so fully embodied the characteristics of a showy and charismatic film star, in both a humorous and eventually sad manner. I very much enjoyed Bérénice Bejo’s performance as Peppy Miller, but was slightly put off by how modern she looked alongside the Clark Gable-esque aura that Dujardin exudes. Otherwise, her performance was the perfect amount of eagerness and freshness to contrast with the solid and confident old-school charm of Dujardin. And who could forget Valentin’s canine companion, Uggie, whose ‘performance’ also tended to steal the show.
For a modern black and white silent film that relies on intertitles to communicate its dialogue, The Artist has a surprisingly excellent ability to hold the attention of its viewers. I initially anticipated that at some point I would become tired, or bored of the gimmick. But I never became tired or bored, and that has to be an absolute credit not only to the stars of the film, but also to the direction by Michel Hazanavicius and cinematography by Guillaume Schiffman. The black and white of this film has such texture and makes such great use of lighting and smoke effects that it feels like you’re watching something much more visually complex than a film without colour. At some points the costume design was so beautiful that I almost wished I could see the film in colour, though.
For some reason, when I started watching The Artist, I didn’t realise that the entire film was silent. I originally thought that perhaps only some scenes were silent, but I was just totally wrong. I’m glad I was wrong because it gives this film a unique point of difference. At the same time, watching a big cinema audience erupt into applause in complete silence for the first time was a strange experience, and slightly creepy. But as a viewer you’re assisted with the transition into this silent world with a great musical score that fits each scene so well. During the first scene of this film, where we watch George Valentin’s silent film play at a cinema, we see an orchestra playing the score live whilst the film is screened above. When watching this, it felt as if The Artist itself had its own orchestra, responding to the human dramas on screen.
The Artist has received some criticism for using Bernard Herrmann’s love theme from Vertigo (1958, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) during one scene, and I can almost agree with the criticism; it slightly took me out of the film, trying to remember which Hitchcock film the music came from rather than focusing on the content of the film itself. But at the same time, the use of this fantastic piece of music was a nice throwback to earlier cinema, even though Vertigo was released twenty or so years after the time in which The Artist was set.
Overall, The Artist is a huge achievement and extremely enjoyable. I wonder if people who have a lower tolerance for silent films would feel the same way. But ultimately, I loved this. I loved Jean Dujardin, I loved the direction and cinematography and all of the creative elements. I loved that it was a silent film about the silent film era, and I loved that even during its darker moments it was still a sufficiently light film to just watch and enjoy. The Artist is a Best Picture winner that I wholeheartedly agree with, and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t seen this yet to run out and watch it as soon as possible.
Wow, this one sounds excellent, Anna! It’s actually one I’ve kinda been wanting to check out, too. I’ll add it to the official list! …And maybe I’ll get to it some time next year. Hahaha. Have a great weekend, everyone! See you for more on Monday! 🙂