Unfortunately, I was unable to post yesterday, so today will be a double header. Up first is my review on The Artist, which also happens to be my number one pick of favorite movies for 2011.
The first silent film I saw was Diary of a Lost Girl, a 1929 film made by a German filmmaker named G.W. Pabst and Louise Brooks, in my film class last semester. Initially, I wasn’t in any sense blown away by the movie, but I was able to hold interest in its entirety and found it entertaining and interesting. After all, it wasn’t void of music or sound, but only dialogue.
With this little knowledge and experience kept in mind, I went in to see The Artist with little expectation of enjoying it. I knew it was about a silent filmmaker, that it was a silent film, and that it was in black and white, but my knowledge stopped there. I knew nothing of either headlining actor or much information about writer-director Michel Hazanavicius.
But the one thing I will admit after seeing The Artist is that it was easily the best movie I had seen all year. In fact, it was so good, I had nothing but Diary of a Lost Girl to compare it to since it was the only other silent film I have seen. And even with that, I don’t feel like I could compare the two on any level other than that they’re both silent films. The Artist is a moving, fulfilling, hilarious and incredibly delightful film to end 2011 with. Clearly, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo were made to act in the silent film era. Why? Well, the thought of seeing a silent film in my mind is wondering whether I’ll be able to understand the plot with limited narration. There’s much more dependence on the supporting soundtrack, and more so on the facial expressions of the actors. We don’t have words or tone to determine exactly what is being said or how the characters are processing information and then reacting. So much credit is due to Dujardin and Bejo for not leaving the audience in confusion throughout the entire film. From start to finish, I knew what was going on and was able to understand the plot and process the emotions displayed on screen. The other big credit goes to Hazanavicius, who also wrote the film.
It’s an oddity today for people to be entertained without speaking taking place. We live in a world with people who have very small attention spans and rely on technology for constant entertainment. Perhaps we are products of our technologically-savvy generation, but writers and directors like Hazanavicius have proven through works of art such as The Artist that we don’t need an action movie, big explosions, a crazy soundtrack, or a tween love-triangle to entertain today. What Hazanavicius gave us in The Artist was a beautiful, entertaining, well-written story that far outshines much of today’s film. Not because it was bold in being different from everything else, but because it was bold enough to not care to be like everything else, even if that meant not bringing in and holding a younger audience’s attention.
I wish more movies would strive to be like The Artist. The acting was genuine and filled with emotion and made you as a viewer sit there and CARE about what was going on. The Artist also provoked the thought process of what happens when you become an old book and get put on the top shelf. Do you sell everything you have and give up living your life? Do you take everything into your own hands and work to make something better? Or do you join hands with the coming of age while still utilizing older concepts? Obviously silent film is a rarity today (what was the last silent film you saw before The Artist?) and the idea of deciding between talkies and silent movies isn’t a viable question, must less a considered one today.