The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011): France

Reviewed by Brittany Carr. Viewed at AFI Fest 2011.

The most beautiful silent film I have ever viewed. The Artist is a black and white, straight up silent film. It was the first of its kind, to be a feature film with this much publicity in at least 70 years.

I was completely surprised to hear that there was going to be a silent film at the festival, let alone a big feature silent film. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a famous silent film star,and Berenice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, a young woman yearning to be in the film industry. Beginning in 1927, during a red carpet premiere, Peppy drops her autograph book behind the crowd lines and in tern she is pushed into George in front of photographers. And this is where it all begins. From this point in the film, everything changes; Peppy gets the role of an extra in Georges film and is dancing in his arms in one scene, and on her way to bigger roles in bigger movies after George’s advice to be “the one who stands out.”

After his film with Peppy, George gets a reality check. The silent film movies are over, and the talkies were here to stay. The Artist is really about the struggle that silent film actors had when the industry changed to the talkies, and how many silent film stars were out of a job. George has a hard time dealing with the lack of silent films, as if they are extinct, and for a good majority of the film he is seen sulking in his tiny apartment instead of attempting to make a name for himself in the talkie film industry.

Michel Hazanavicius brought the silent film era back to life. It was a cinematic beauty, and his use of the camera was perfect, he used direct frontal shots, panning horizontal shots, but nothing too fancy to keep true to the silent film era. Hazanvicius tried to reproduce some of the older fabrics and costumes from the late 20’s, and keeping the costumes as vintage looking as possible. The costumes were perfect, they looked like they had been pulled from a thrift shop and had been freshened up for the film’s old school glamor.

I highly recommend this film, with the fantastic soundtrack and camera work, the audience was able to really focus on the actors faces without relying on their voices  and the tone to tell you what is going on in the scene. That aspect I really came to respect, at first I was annoyed because I was so use to speaking movies, but it was refreshing to see a silent film that made you think about what you were actually seeing.

 

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