This year, if anything, we’ve been given a common theme throughout film, especially those who are attacking the Awards scene. There’s nothing like being sent to the past, especially those that can connect to the specific time period or similar memories. Films like Hugo and Super 8 are examples of creations where we are sent back to those “good ole” days of yesteryear. The Artist is no different.
The Artist, envisioned by the French director Michael Hazanavicius creates this small little film about silent era, where sound is not an element in Hollywood. it focuses on George Valentin, wonderfully acted by Jean Dujardin, a prominent silent film actor who is one of the biggest draws in the film industry, and his coincidence in creating a star in Peppy Miller, who is brilliantly played by Berenice Bejo, and create this strong connection and bond. But the focus is not on a love story, but on the rising of the new and trending and the falling of the old and unchanging. Sound is the future of films, but Valentin refuses to adapt to this new innovative creation for the industry, and he leaves his studio to create his own film, a silent one, while Hollywood shifts their entire focus and emphasis to sound. Miller, on the other hand, is a rising star with her delightful dancing, a young and attractive face, and what I’m assuming, a decent voice, where she eventually becomes the talk of the town. She eventually replaces Valentin in their fight for fame, and as time progresses through the stock market crash, Valentin begins to lose everything he has, mainly because of his unwillingness to accept the new, and the pride that clenches on to what he believes is the best and correct way of creating movies.
Sounds simple enough and it honestly is. But what we experience here is also a silent film. It’s the first silent film I’ve ever seen, and it something that I had to get used to, I’m not going to lie. As an impatient viewer who has constant knack for making sure audiences are continuously entertained, at times, it seemed like this was too much of a gimmick, and as the film progressed, it was tough for myself to actually make a connection and understand the whole purpose of this. But what seemed like a gimmick plays out as an extremely charming and playful film with a lot of heart and wit. Yes, there were times where I was sitting in my chair, hoping to hear some sound effects, a line of dialogue, or something other than an orchestra (and we do by the way, no spoiler intended), but you what is provided on screen is so much more than just a different style or an innovative and creative idea that really isn’t that innovative or creative.
It’s a tribute to the past, but not just in film, but in every individual. It provides us a time where innocence and enthusiasm is what it took to make it in the industry, and that a good smile shows the individual at heart. The story is extremely simple, obviously, but as I think about The Artist more and more, it is a look back at a time where we saw film as a blessing, an exciting experience where we all gather to enjoy the latest from Hollywood. You get a sense of genuine motives, and a tribute to times where success was measured by how much the audience enjoyed it. All actors and actresses wanted to do was to make good films that people of all ages could enjoy, and we don’t just see it from what’s on screen, but we feel that passion and heartfelt in every scene as the director, is trying himself to send us into that kind of still moment in time. Though I am only 23 years old and really have no clue about that time era in film, there’s a sense of youth and love through every scene, and all you can really do is smile. I mean, the last time I laughed at such innocent things like a goofy face, a dance or a dog and an owner’s connection, I can’t even remember, but that’s the whole point: is to send the audience to a place where we can be the person at heart where those things were enjoyable and entertaining.
Allow me to mention the great performances by Dujardin and Bejo. I mean, wow, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to really display emotions, subtle feelings and distinct mannerisms without saying word, especially in a time where words mean more than actions, but they do a heck of a job in making the audience believe in what they’re doing. They are the reason this movie works so well, and both should be nominated for Oscars for their roles.
But this is not a perfect film. I had some issues, especially with the pace and timing of the film, I mean, how long can a silent film really be? And though I loved the first act, the second moved very slowly and thought it got the point across very early on, but stuck with this tone for a long time, and I thought it hurt the film. But in the end, The Artist achieves its goals, and succeeds in the only way it wanted to succeed. It provides something not many films can provide, and from the young to the old, it’s a tribute to a time where we could enjoy such innocent pleasure.
The Artist is worth: 3/4 of a clock (3 1/2 stars).