It was my intention to write this review before the Academy Awards aired on Sunday night. I decided to run out to a theater still playing what was later awarded Best Picture of 2011 late Saturday afternoon, and to my surprise, I found myself in a packed theater. Sadly, due to the time I arrived, I had to sit in one of the seats close to the front. That was my only problem with this film, but it was my own fault.
As for the film, marvelous homage to early cinema! I knew all the hype behind the movie, but as usual, I needed to see it for myself to see if it was legit hype.
True, the major selling point is that it’s a silent movie. The black & white aspect isn’t all that spectacular even though it’s employed nicely, a lot of modern movies still do that brilliantly. In fact, Sin City might be my favorite modern B+W film, even though it’s not a true B+W. But as for silent pictures? I think maybe the last “modern” silent pic would be the first chunk of WALL-E or Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie. There are probably more out there I’m not aware of, but my point is this was a film made to look like those early pictures of almost a century ago, and they nailed it.
While watching this film, I wondered if I’d be able to let go of analyzing it and allow myself to get wrapped into the story. I didn’t have to wonder for too long. In fact, there was a scene early in the film that zapped me back to “reality” before fully emerging me into The Artist‘s world. When George has a terrifying realization about how sound can take over and leave him in the dust, I was hooked. Put it another way, while this is a film dedicated to the age of silent films, it’s still very much a modern film. This is most evident much later in the film when our hero realizes how his star has fallen.
Backing up a bit, the story is about a famous silent movie star enjoying his celebrity. We start his story just on the brink of next innovation of film making: sound! George scoffs at this idea, thinking it’s just a fad that’ll never catch on and he refuses to have any part of it. I’ll also throw in that George is as prideful as he is rich. This is important to the overall theme of the story.
The story is also about rising star Peppy Miller, whom has a chance encounter with George, an actor she’s inspired by and infatuated with. George is kinda smitten with her too, and more or less boosts her career with some advice and a beauty mark. It helps, and ultimately her star outshines him, which he ultimately becomes bitter about. Jean Dujardin earned his Oscar for this role.
Let’s also not forget about Uggie the dog. I don’t know what his name is in the movie, but he’s awesome and I can see why they’d want to give him an award too.
I’m glad I got to catch this while it was still in theaters. In fact, my friend demanded that I do so, and they were right. Seeing this in a theater is how, I believe, this film is best viewed. Cinematography stands out more, the music is heard the way it’s supposed to be, and like most films should be, it’s no longer viewed, it’s experienced. With that said, there are some naysayers out there (cough-LD co-host Wendy* and other media critics and blogs-cough) that feel this movie is gimmicky and trying to be original when it’s really a copycat. Or maybe they just think the idea of a silent film is lame or overall boring. We can have that debate after you watch it, and I’ll explain the difference between copycats and homages.
If you love film, classic or modern, and want to see something new and different, check this one out. I would consider it a crowd please and very deserved of the awards it’s won this past year. The only other won I feel I really need to see now is Hugo, but that in itself is another story, another movie, and another review for another time. But The Artist is a film I’d probably buy on DVD later. It’s worth repeating.
*In Wendy’s defense, she usually just likes to argue with me just for the sake of debate and to see if she can make me mad.