Penelope Ann Miller

Review: In “The Artist” silence is golden

February 8th, 2012 at 12:09 am by under Entertainment

A movie like “The Artist” doesn’t come around everyday… it is a terrific movie, far better than most conventional movies in this era of 3-D and big budget bombs.

Even though “The Artist” is a love letter to the early days of film, contemporary audiences can appreciate it because, like its silent era subject, its filled with a lot of old fashioned fun.

"The Artist" poster courtesy The Weinstein Company

(My spoiler-free review)

I could almost hear a projector playing as I sat and watched “The Artist” in a (basically vacant) modern digital theater complete with surround sound and comfy chairs.

Despite my heightened interest to see the movie because of its 10 Oscar nominations and 3 Golden Globe wins, it was amazing how much I could be drawn in by a type of filmmaking that I haven’t seen or appreciated in decades.  Yet at the same time, “The Artist” feels as fresh and new in style as the 3-D successes of movies like “Avatar”, “Hugo”, and “Tron Legacy”.

The movie is as much about the silent movie era as it is about a man who became a star in the era and can’t come to grips with the change to “talkies”.

That man… George Valentin, played perfectly by Jean Dujardin … and the incredible production help us accept that we are back in the late 1920s.

George is very playful and happy-go-lucky on and off the screen, his acting is a lot of mugging and over-the-top, basically standard fare for the 1920s silent movies.  So the main character and the silent movie are tied together as we move forward into the new fad of “talkies”.  His co-stars Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, and James Cromwell all knocked their roles out of the park. With Bejo pitch perfect as the fresh faced wanna-be actress who has just arrived in Hollywoodland.

But “The Artist” never felt forced, it never felt hokey, it wasn’t a stunt to send a message about the changing tide of cinema.   It is simply great filmmaking.  While “The Artist” is a black and white movie about the silent movie era, its not entirely silent and the simple, yet perfect score from Ludovic Bource carries us along, its more than just a soundtrack, its emphasizes the story.

The Director, Michel Hazanavicius knew when to introduce sound that wasn’t just the score.  He also created a romantic comedy that was every bit as interesting and emotional as a conventional movie.

Jean Dujardin and Uggie in "The Artist" photo courtesy The Weinstein Company

In addition to a creative script, Hazanavicius and his team really nailed the production process, “The Artist” looks amazing.  Everything is great: the opening titles, the look of the title cards (silent era dialogue), the lighting, the occasional softness of the image, the wardrobe, the hairstyles, the makeup, the decor, the old time magazines and newspapers, cars and the license plates, the lights, the cigarettes, the labels on bottles… all the way down to George’s pencil thin mustache,  lightswitches, and waste baskets on the street corners.

All the beautiful visuals from set pieces to costumes seen through the talented cinematography of Guillaume Schiffman … its very 1920s, silent movie-esque – the acting, the sets, the effects/transitions, and even the music sounds like its playing off a record.

Anyone who’s ever seen a silent era movie (outside of the era) can appreciate its homage.   And you’ll also love “Uggie” the dog as George’s best friend and favorite on-screen co-star.