Artist Silences Audiences

The Artist Silences Audiences With Nostaglia

While movies have been innovated over the years by how people see them, from eye-popping 3D to awe inspiring IMAX, there is very little reason to regress to old filming techniques. Especially when one goes back to the way movies were originally shown to audiences with no color, completely silent besides a musical score, and a story simply told through action and written dialogue.

As creativity seems to be diminishing from Hollywood, Michel Hazanavicius’s film The Artist shows audiences that out with the old and in with the new is not always true, even if that’s what the movie is all about.

The Artist dives right into the successful life of silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) at the height of his career. His latest movie, “A Russian Affair,” is having its premiere and the audiences love it. George hogs the spotlight with his dog Jack while movie head Al Zimmer (John Goodman) basks in the applause backstage.

As they exit the theater, the streets are packed with reporters and the women that love George, like Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a beautiful unknown dancer. She’s pushed front and center as George stares at her in bewilderment at her natural beauty. He then bursts into laughter as she charismatically smiles and poses for pictures, the start to her bright career.

They keep crossing paths as George keeps making silent movies while Peppy steadily becomes a loved actress. George is doing fine, until Al shows the future in filmmaking, “talkies.” To the dismay of Al, George doesn’t see any prospect in it, saying “If that’s the future, you can have it!”

Al’s film company is going with talkies because “People want new faces, talking faces.” George doesn’t believe it as he’s the “one people come to see, they don’t need me to talk.” As George walks down the stairs of the studio, he passes Peppy and her boy toys as she goes to become the biggest star in Hollywood. She hopes “maybe now we’ll do a picture together,” as he’s stunned by her while feeling jealous and distraught.

Dujardin is marvelous in every scene, really capturing the success and triumph of the character in the beginning of the film to the depressed but proud person he becomes. He’ll make you laugh and he’ll grip at your heart at his lowest, Dujardin could have had real success as a silent film star.

Bejo is lovely to watch, though she’s at her best when she’s playful and smiling or with George. She is a charming and beautiful person, but that’s the only mood you’d like to see her. Jack the dog will be the real favorite of everyone since he’s so adorable and saves the day constantly, reminding any classic movie lover of Asta from The Thin Man.

The rest of the ensemble is superb. Goodman is a perfect match as Al the producer. He smokes on his cigar naturally, beams with excitement at the prospect of money to be made, and is awkwardly unsettled when he has to let George go.

But James Cromwell is the real scene stealer as Clifton, George’s right hand man. He has a genuine loyalty to his boss, and sticks through thick and thin even at the lowest.

This movie is great for movie lovers and certain viewers may notice small camoes throughout the movie from actors like Missi Pyle playing George’s supporting and annoyed actress, Malcolm McDowell as a bored butler and Beth Grant as Peppy’s maid. Even I found some enjoyment in Joel Murray playing a policemen, as it’s only right one of the Murrays are in the movie.

Hazanavicius uses some awesome and brilliant tactics to provoke the feeling of a scene, whether playing Zorro, a hero that everybody loved or sinking in quicksand as his career crumbles. The nightmare scene is incredibly empty of music but filled with sounds that haunt George. The dialogue is sparingly but each line has weight.

Hazanavicius has a real eye too, using lighting to put George in the shadows. You also sometimes forget you’re watching a new movie as the scenery and costumes are an exact replica of old Hollywood and classic films. The hairstyles of Peppy and George’s wife, Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), would have especially made Jean Arthur or Claudette Colbert extremely jealous.

The real treat of the movie is the beautiful score by Ludovic Bource that helps transcend the mood of scenes, being lovingly majestic as the stars gaze in each other’s eyes and mysteriously eerie and dismal as George falls into a lonesome depression. It’s peppy and lively as audiences laugh and cheer or big and extravagant as actors dance and twirl.

While people in the UK were unimpressed that The Artist was a silent movie and demanded their money back, the silence helps the audience laugh and enjoy the movie together.

I wouldn’t give it the title for best movie of the year, but it’s a great timely piece that deserves plenty of acknowledgment and will be adored for years by the people that really enjoy it.