Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Artist

The Artist; silent drama, France, 2011; D: Michel Hazanvicius, S: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell

George Valentine is a famous silent movie star. One evening, a fangirl, Peppy Miller, emerges from the masses and "humorously" crashes into him, seizing the attention of the newspapers. Upon George's intervention, she gets a small role of an extra in his next film. She quickly becomes a star, while producer Zimmer informs George that a revolution, sound movies, is approaching. George disregards it and invests all his money into directing a silent movie, which flops the same night that Peppy's new sound picture becomes a hit. As years pass, the stock market crash aggravates George's state, who bankrupts and tries to commit suicide. However, Peppy stops him and gives him a second chance as a dancer in a sound movie.

Even though several modern directors made "retro" silent films - Brooks with "Silent Movie", Kaurismaki with "Juha", Oshii with "Angel's Egg" - it was Michel Hazanvicius who directed a famous and internationally recognized modern pseudo-silent film, "The Artist", who collected several prestigious awards. It is a charming and (obviously) brave homage to the early Hollywood classics (even courageously filmmed in 4:3 ratio), extracting most of its power from the two great leading actors, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo - contrary to the popular belief, even though it does not recquire for an actor to learn any lines, expressing emotions only through gestures in a silent movie is equally of a challenge. "The Artist" works the best during its humorus and inventive moments, such as George's foreshadowing nightmare where he (and the audience) suddenly hear the sound of objects he drops, and even a leaf makes a "crashing" sound when it reaches a floor, yet he is somehow mute, or the sequence where George descends the stairs while Peppy walks upstairs, signalling the directions of the careers from there on, but the second half is too conventional and melodramatic, exhausting itself with repetitive scenes of hero's anxiety. It also causes a solid inconsistency for the upcoming love plot - how could the viewers consider Peppy's feeling honest when she knew about George's plight/bankruptcy for years, but did not move a finger to help him all that time? Leaving the too simplistic resolution aside, "The Artist" works better when it is a comedy than when it is a (conventional) drama, yet it is an enjoyable experience that shows an honest ode to dreamy cinema, and is refreshingly emotional at it.


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