Friday, 3 February 2012

The Artist (2011)

Silence is (awarded a) golden (globe, amongst other awards)

Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), it seems the sky's the limit - major movie stardom awaits. The Artist tells the story of their interlinked destinies


"A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue."

I felt it was appropriate to begin my review with that quote from David Mamet, as The Artist manages to be the 21st century's sole example that you don't need dialogue to make a great film. It doesn't hurt to add great dialogue, as evidenced by the best works from Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, but when a film manages to grip you and get you invested in the film and it's characters without dialogue, then the film is definitely something special.

There are a few moments where the film needs to explain what is being said, so it cuts to text on-screen, detailing what dialogue a character is are saying, but this is used so little, because you can easily understand everything else despite there being no text or dialogue. You understand what is going on thanks to the characters' facial expressions, their body language and some words you can just read straight from their lips.

The film has been described as a silent film, but that's not 100% accurate. I'd say calling this a silent film is actually 99% accurate, as there's a small scene within the film involving sound actually being used. What's truly magnificent about this scene is how the sound is used to highlight George's fear of the talkies, to show how he is scared that while the world moves on from silent pictures to films with sound, the audience will not want to hear a silent film star speaking, that he will not be able to integrate well into this new era of film.

Any lesser film would've made this scene in 3d

George Valentin is a beloved silent film star who leads a charmed life, taking in every second the spotlight is upon him. But his love for the spotlight leads him to miss the obvious, that his wife doesn't actually love him, leading her to deface the pictures of him in magazines whilst he tries to make things up by getting his valet to buy jewellery for her.

George's relationship with Peppy is a rather sweet one that feels very genuine and well built up, enhanced by the terrific chemistry shared by Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, brought out well thanks to their amazing performances. They both look out for each other throughout, as George helps Penny keep her first film role, while Peppy keeps an eye out for George after the times have gotten tough for the former star.

This film offers some of the best and most genuine characterization I have seen in a film from 2011, as you don't get monologues infodumping the characters' backgrounds and their past experiences, but you see them for who they are as people only through the simpler things, such as the gestures they make and the expressions that appear upon their faces. Michel Hazanavicius has done a magnificent job as director here, and should be commended for his work.

Due to the lack of sound, you are left to go through the film's 100 minutes running time listening to the soundtrack in an even closer manner than you would have in any other film, and this is all fine due to the magnificent nature of the tracks, making this film's soundtrack be one of the best of 2011.

I cannot finish my review for this film without mentioning Uggie, a dog so popular that an official campaign has been made to get him an Oscar nomination, be it real or honorary. He's quite the scene-stealer, doing it in ways so adorable and humorous, adding greatly to the overall charm and heart that this film presents.

In this day and age where the film industry is a 3d obsessed, CGI ridden landscape, The Artist manages to be a breath of fresh air that will remind you of the simpler days, where you did not need overlong chunks of dialogue to understand what is happening in a film, where you only needed to see the characters facial expressions and their slightest gestures to understand what is happening and to get a good feel of who the characters truly are. A guaranteed way to ensure a smile that will stay upon your face.

13 comments:

  1. Terrific review. Loved your last paragraph, I said the same thing. This is definitely one of the best films in the past decade.

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    1. Thank you, I definitely agree with that statement.

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  2. excellent review. I never thought if the scene were there's sound like that. clever. well done rodders.

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  3. This is truly a brilliant film, and indeed one of the best of the past decade. After thinking about the film for a while, I chalked up George's reluctance to embrace the talkies was due to insecurity about his strong french accent and the possibility that he may not have been able to speak English very well. There could also be insecurity that people would laugh at his accent, and that is a perfectly common fear. One of the great cases of the actor's nationality positively affecting the characterization. Besides that, there was not a single thing wrong with this film and it's my personal pick for Best Picture and Best Actor. Brilliant review!

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    1. That does make sense, I guess I did not pick up on that as his accent was only heard once at the end. Cheers

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  4. I loved this film. But you probably already knew that. Another thing that you probably already knew is that it's one of my favorites from 2011; possibly THE favorite. Good work!

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    1. Yeah, this is one of my favourites from 2011 also, If you look on my other page, you can see where it ranks amongst 2011 films i've seen

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  5. It's become tradition to give this movie full marks, but any less would be impossible, haha. Good review

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    1. It would seem so, thanks for reading.

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  6. Best film of the year, it was wonderful. What else is there so say that hasn't already been said?


    Sorry for beating you to the Alfred Hitchcock quote, =P but you found a fine substitute

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    1. Its fine, the substitute was good enough. Thanks for reading

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  7. Loved Uggie! I went into watching this film being highly skeptical. I ended up leaving the theater with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
    I did find it sort of ironic that some critics were dissing Refn's Drive for the lack of dialogue and singing the praises of the artist for the same reason.
    Enjoyed checking out your review

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