Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Artist (2011) [PG-13] *****

It's 1927, the height of the Roaring Twenties, and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the reigning king of the silent film era, modeled after a blending of real-world stars Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks. One day, after a matinee premiere of George's latest film, adoring fan Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) quite literally bumps into him. George reacts graciously and accepts Peppy's kiss on his cheek as photographers snap pictures of them. Headlines for the next day's Variety ask: Who's That Girl? and Peppy decides to audition for a part as a dancer in George's next film.

From that point film Peppy's career takes off. Over the next five years, the stock market crashes, the nation slips into the Great Depression, and the era of the silent film ends as talkies take over. No longer must actors overact and mug for the camera. Vocal sound allows nuance, subtlety and texture that silent films never could achieve. But the studios believe that viewers want fresh new actors, not silent film stars with voices. Peppy, who represents the new era, becomes America's Sweetheart, while George fades into obscurity and tries to drown his sorrows with alcohol. But Peppy always loved George, and she never forgot him.

Written and directed by Michel HazanaviciusThe Artist was shot as a silent film in black and white, and in the old standard 4:3 aspect ratio. The only spoken dialogue occurs at the very end of the film, as the production studio is shooting a talkie. The film gives us an opportunity to re-experience the freedoms and the limitations inherent in a silent film. Personally, while I enjoyed and appreciated The Artist, in my humble opinion the definitive modern-era film about the silent film era and the transition to talkies is Chaplin: The Movie, starring Robert Downey, Jr., in an Oscar-nominated role, featuring a great script, supporting cast, soundtrack and cinematography. But, do enjoy The Artist… it's excellent film making and a great silent-film-era romance. 

The supporting cast includes John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell, Nina Siemaszko and Missi Pyle.

Labels: comedy, drama, filmmaking, romance
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 89/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=88, viewers=84)    

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