Friday, December 16, 2011

The Artist

The Artist (2011, France/Belgium, Michel Hazanavicius)

Once upon a time, a megastar was effortlessly able to charm his audience. He smiled and everyone fell over backwards in awe, including producers who obliged to his every whim. A photo with him could turn a nobody into a page one headline. However, he was vain and refused to change with the times so his producer dumped him. The actor was so sure of his success that he became an indie filmmaker and bankrolled his own film. The film flopped at the box-office and when the stock market crashed, the actor went bankrupt. His fortunes were sold off at an auction and he had to pawn off his expensive suits for food and drink money. He turned into an alcoholic and was so washed up that even his shadow left him. When all hope looked lost, a loving hard tried to pull him out of the quicksand. Unfortunately, once again his pride got in the way and his fate appeared sealed.

But in the tradition of a typical Hollywood studio film, he is saved thereby ensuring a feel good happy ending that everyone loves.

Cut. Insert sound. Roll credits.


Give film universal acclaim.

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo charmingly bring their characters to life but ultimately The Artist is a rehashed studio film sold in a different package. The silent film treatment feels like a gimmick as demonstrated by the nightmare sequence in which Dujardin’s character of George Valentin loses his voice. George is told by his producer Al (John Goodman) that talkies are the future and silent actors are on the verge of extinction. This causes George to have a nightmare in which he loses his voice but all the objects and characters around him break free of the film’s silent framework -- the objects make a loud noise while characters laugh in their own voice. This sequence draws attention to itself and makes the film appear more as a spoof of the silent film era, and not as a homage. Also, watching George and Al discussing talkies while reading intertitles appears to be joke geared towards the audience and not as a relevant scenario in the context of a silent film. It would have been more effective if The Artist was a pure silent film with no reference to talkies or if the film was about the making of silent movies where characters talked in their own voice. As it stands, The Artist comes across as a muddled effort trying to use a framework of a silent film without fully embracing the methodology of the era.

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