Friday, 13 January 2012

The Artist

The Artist, 2011
Directed by Michel Hazanavicus
Possible nominations include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score.

Synopsis: George Valentin is the top star in Hollywood. It's 1927, and he's a silent film star, incredibly hansome, and completely dashing. And then there's Peppy Miller. She's a starstruck fan of George, and an aspiring actress of her own. She briefly meets George, but starts to rise to fame after she is an extra in George's new film. They are interested in each other, but both go their own ways as she's rising to fame in silent films and, eventually talkies, and George Valentin is wondered how to stay afloat as a silent actor while talking films are rising and the public wants "new meat" and "fresh faces"

Knowing only the synopsis of the film, I wondered if this was basically going to be the silent, black & white, dramatic version of Singin' In the Rain. It sounded similar, a silent film star, the rise of talking films, an aspiring actress, etc. Even the opening of the film was quite similar. We see the opening of George Valentin's new film, we see him out on stage, wooing the crowds, and how much he is loved. We see Peppy Miller as an extra on set, as a good dancer (though admittedly, Peppy loves George, whereas Kathy hated Don in SitR), and we see the studio view a talking movie (a short clip), and George scoffing at it. But the similarities stop between the two films there.

Admittedly, I thought this was going to be a light, fluffy film, as I'd read those words in a few reviews. Though that's not exactly how I'd describe this movie. In fact, some of the movie was really quite sad. We see a man refusing to go along with the times, to become more "modern", and loosing everything around him. While it didn't  have a hugely complex story, it wasn't rainbows and butterflies either.

What I really enjoyed about this film was how legitimately "old" looking it was! Everything from the ratio (it wasn't wide screen, but was almost square, since there wasn't wide screen back in the day), to the beginning credits with the old type face, the score, and the title cards rather than subtitles, like they used to use. Knowing a little bit about silent film from the film class I took last semester, I was impressed. It didn't look modern in any way, it had a really amateur 1920's look and feel to it, and I loved that. Michel Hazanavicius went the whole nine yards on the silent film thing, and I'm glad he did.

Additionally, Jean Dujardin was very, very impressive in this film. He really expressed himself so well, without using words. He had so much passion, and was very into his character and you can tell. Especially the last scene (the one before the tap-dancing one) was especially impressive as well as the fire scene. Trying not to spoil, but all his best work came later on in the film. Also, Berenice Bejo, wife of the director who didn't audition for the part was extremely charming. She was over-dramatic and charming and silly, just like actors and actresses were then. She didn't go too overboard, nor did she hold back. She's a very skillful woman, and between the two of them, I would forget the film was silent because they can both communicate so well by their expressions and body language. I would put Dujardin higher up on my list of Best Actor, having had just as good a performance as Brad Pitt, though still not as good as Clooney. However, he was very impressive, and I really enjoyed him. And the dog. The dog was so cute, and so good.

What I also thought was so neat was the use of shadows and reflects in the film. We see lots of shadows play a part, and lots of scene showing reflections. Both of those are a huge part of George Valentin. The shadow of who he used to be, and the reflection of who he is now. It was subtle, the use of both, but were extremely effective, and added so much to the film.

(spoiler paragraph)
Another metaphor, was the use of silence itself. It represented, once again, so much of how George Valentin was. He's a silent film star, and that's who he wants to stay being. He is scared of "talking" and that reflects in the first of the two scenes with sound used in the film. The one mentioned, being his nightmare, in which the world around him is filled with noise but he remains silent. He is a prideful man, wanting not to change for anyone, being vain enough to think he himself will draw fans, but is scared he is losing his star quality, his "voice". But what fans really want are the new and exciting. He is living a dull home life, and is loosing everything around him. The second use of sound was the ending, when he finally accepts what is happening, and agrees to take a chance on it, and dance with Peppy in their new film together. George has accepted this new step in his life, has lost all his pride and is no longer so independent that he pushes people away, he has found his "voice" again, and he has become happier. He has sound in his life. And I thought that was a very effective way of putting it. It was well thought-out, and an effective metaphorical tool. (end spoiler)

The only complain I had was that the music wasn't always well placed. Several times it lingered too long before starting up again, or the music just didn't go with what was happening in the scene. Many times it would've been better suited to have a more sad and melancholy piece than an angry, loud piece, but that's just my musical opinion. The score was quite enchanting, and I enjoyed it overall, even if it wasn't 100% perfectly used.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. It was really, really well done, and certainly deserved a Best Directing award, no doubt. Will it win best picture? Most likely, yes. It's the front-runner right now, with only The Descendants as it's biggest challenger. It was a well-done, perfect homage to the silent film era, and was so genuine. Was it my favourite film? No, it wasn't. It was very good, but I still preferred War Horse and Moneyball over it, though I thought it was quite on par with The Descendants and The Help, and definitely better than Hugo. Still, I see the appeal for Best Picture winner (which I predict it will be). It's different, it's homage, it's old-fashioned, and it's a nice movie. It's not deep and loaded with serious issues and heavy stuff (like the Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionarie, etc). It can, and most likely will sweep the awards circuit this year. Don't be surprised if they call it out for the Last Prize come Oscar night.

Acting- 8/10
Directing- 8/10
Screenplay- 7/10
Music- 9/10
"The look"- 8.5/10
Entertaining- 8/10
Emotional Connection- 7/10
Rewatchability- 7/10
Did I Like It?- 8/10
"Total Package"- 8.5/10

Total: 79/100

1 comment:

  1. Great review. They really did do a good job at communicating everything, even without any words. Like you, I think it may take the big prize!