When The Artist won the Academy Award for Best Picture, I was shocked. I’d been rooting for Hugo. It seemed nobody had heard of The Artist, a French film starring no one I’d ever heard of. I was intrigued. If it won the Academy Award of Academy Awards, it must be pretty good.
As it turned out, The Artist and Hugo have a common theme. Both pay homage to silent films, though in different ways. Hugo’s main character helps a former silent film director rediscover his love for movies, but The Artist takes a different approach entirely. This movie stars a very successful silent film actor name George Valentin whose career takes a turn for the worse when sound films are introduced, while the career of a young actress, Peppy Miller, booms when “talkies” become popular. The catch? The Artist is a black and white silent film, complete with text in place of dialogue and exaggerating actors to set the tone.
Although difficult to grow accustomed to, The Artist expertly pulls off being a silent film in today’s world where the audience is used to “talkies.” Of course, the only way to enjoy a movie with no sound is with a perfect soundtrack, which Ludovic Bource supplies in spades. The music is reminiscent of the 20s and 30s without copying it exactly. It’s tense when the actors need tension and “peppy” when the actors need pep. It fits in just as the music from a piano player in a silent film cinema would.
This movie is not hesitant to remind you that there isn’t sound. Just like in original silent films, instead of hearing someone say “Hello”, you must either read their lips or read the text that interrupts that picture. The Artist does have some actual sound at certain points outside of the soundtrack, but only in two scenes: George’s nightmare and the final 60 seconds of the movie.
The Artist doesn’t just stand out because it’s silent. The plot on its own is original. I can’t think of many movies about the transition between silent and sound films. Most don’t realize how difficult this transition truly was for a lot of people in the film industry. The Artist does an excellent job of showing how some suffered while others made their fortunes off of these “talkies.”
Another thing that makes this film hard not to like is the acting. In a motion picture where you can’t express yourself through words or inflections, you have to rely on facial expressions and hand gestures to do it for you. This is especially difficult when your character has to be falling in love with another. However, the stars of The Artist, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, do this expertly. With just their body language, it’s very easy to tell that they’re intentionally ignoring each other or happy to see one another.
The Artist is a movie that will touch your heart and remind why you love films in the first place. A phenomenal film filled with tears, laughs and tap dancing, it will leave you breathless. Arguably the most original movie of the decade, The Artist definitely ends with a “BANG!”