‘The Artist’ Review: Silence is Golden

There is a difference between a movie and a film. Movies are made for money, and yes they can be great, but they still are missing a key aspect of the motion picture formula. Films are made for their art value, and yes they can fall flat on their face, but boy are we in for a treat when a filmmaker gets it right. The Artist is a film and one of the best of its kind. It works as a tribute to film itself and meanwhile tells a stirring story filled with rich characters.

The Artist is a silent film. Yes, in 2011 someone is daring enough to make a film where people don’t talk. That person is director Michel Hazanavicius who is likely unfamiliar to you unless you have extended knowledge of French cinema. What his film manages to do is remind you that dialogue is not always necessary in telling a fantastic story. The only real modern comparison is Pixar’s 2008 masterpiece Wall-E, which featured almost no dialogue in its first half. Otherwise you will have to turn to actual silent films from the 1920s to see anything like it.

But the fact that The Artist is coming out now is no mistake. It is a celebration of the history of cinema, showing similar passion to Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is on top of the world at the start of the film. But as “talkies” start to take over production companies, as well as new super star Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) who is unafraid to infiltrate the new ways of cinema, as well as Valentin’s heart, Valentin ends up in a downward spiral as he fails to find a new place in the industry.

The cast is absolutely brilliant. Dujardin and Bejo have vibrant chemistry with each other as well as the camera. Other, more recognizable faces, show up in supporting roles. John Goodman in particular steals every scene he’s in as a cigar chewing Hollywood executive. James Cromwell also does a nice job in his small scenes as Valentin’s driver. I also cannot help but give a special mention to the dog in the film who adds so much charm and humor to what is at times a very grim film.

However, not all parts of The Artist are grim. Much of the film is very funny and lighthearted, but when the serious stuff kicks in you feel the tension. Style-wise the film is absolutely gorgeous. Every shot helps to tell a coherent story without dialogue. There is also a very eery dream sequence that uses what little sound can be found in the film effectively.

The great thing about The Artist is that it is timeless. Audiences from any era would enjoy the beauty of the craft that went into this film. This is a wonderful film which unlike most other films and movies this year, will be remembered for a very long time. (**** out of 4)

photo credit: http://www.awardscircuit.com/2011/12/03/film-review-the-artist-12/

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