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The Artist (2011)
Silent Movies the Birth of Sound part 1
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter, Joel Murray, Bitsie Tulloch, Ken Davitian, Malcolm McDowell, Basil Hoffman, Bill Fagerbakke, Nina Siemaszko
Synopsis: Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for a disturbing image and a crude gesture
Silent Movies the Birth of Sound part 2
Quite possibly one of the best films of last year
Since the early days of the film industry, silent movies have paved the way for many of today's current generation of cinema. Before there was ever a John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe or even a Tom Hanks, we used to have such prestigious stars like Charlie Chaplin and George Valentino, to name a few. Although by today's standards, the art of silent films is a bit of a lost art, but it still plays a key role when looking back at the history of cinema itself.
When the concept of talkies (movies with sound) started to become mentioned as a possible means for the future of movies, many people doubted that films would ever evolve in such a way, but like all things in life, everything changes sooner or later. As many film experts know, the transition from silent films to talkies was not an easy one to say the least. Not only did the mere concept change the entire outlook on the film industry, but many actors lost their jobs as a direct result. Why did they lose their jobs? Although many silent actors were great at their perspective crafts, many failed to make transition due to their horrendous voices; hence the dilemma among many actors, as not many were willing to make such a transition so easily for these very reasons.
As time went on, silent movies were eventually phased out completely from the film industry. Although there was a brief parody in 1976, by Mel Brooks, that was titled, "Silent Movie", but there hasn't been too many since. However, "The Artist" is the first silent film that has come along in a while, and it's actually quite good. Unfortunately, some people may be immediately turned off by the prospect of this movie being a silent film, but if you can get past that, then you might find yourself watching arguably one of the best movies of last year.
The story is about a popular silent film star named George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who seems to on top of the world. Having attended his latest blockbuster debut, he inevitably runs into a young fan named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), whom accidentally gets into a photo shoot that he was having for the press. However, with Valentin being the nice guy that he is, he welcomes her with open arms, as the photos they take together instantly make the front page. Although Valentin seems to be at the top of the world, he's actually going through severe marriage problems with his wife. In the film, they never address why they have a screwed up marriage, but the theme of it seems to be communication. In one particular scene, she keeps asking George to talk to her, as he adamantly refuses. Some can say this is a bit of a metaphor for how George refuses to convert over to talking movies, as he prefers the silent cinema; even though the public slowly shifts to wanting to see their actors speak.
Anyway, as luck would have it, Peppy Miller somehow wins the audition to costar alongside George, where the two share a brief love affair with each other. Although Valentin is obviously a married man, he can't help but feel charmed by this young actress, and she can't resist being drawn to him either. However, one day, Al Zimmer (John Goodman) calls George in for a screening of a sound test they did for a movie. At first, George laughs thinking it's nothing more than a gimmick. To which Al shrugs, and says, "Don't laugh. That's the future, George." Then George replies, "If that's the future, then you can have it." Sadly, what poor George doesn't realize is that very same gimmick is the future of cinema, as he's about to find out the hard way.
To make long story short, talkies become the going rage in the late twenties, as silent films are slowly being phased from existence; hence making actors like George Valentin almost extinct. Meanwhile, George's former protege and lover somehow surpasses him in terms of popularity, due to talkies going into production. Needless to say, George loses his job at the studio, but he valiantly puts together an independent silent film to make a come back. Unfortunately, the movie bombs, and he's forced to sell almost everything; which renders him into bankruptcy.
It's from here, we see George's life move downward into a spiral of self doubt, as he sees the world changing around him. One epic scene comes to mind is when he talks to his own shadow. Calling himself a bitter loser, as he imagines even his own shadow walking away from him.
Another powerful scene shows the ingenuous use of sound, as George had a nightmare after talking with Al Zimmer over the test video. In this dream, George is sitting in his dressing room drinking, and then suddenly taps his glass on the table. The glass makes a clanking sound, and then he hears other noises like his dog barking, and a few girls laughing. Yet, he's unable to speak himself. To make the dream even more bizarre, it concludes with a feather falling on the ground, which makes a earth shattering boom sound. Not only does this scene give off a great foreshadowing of the events to come later, but it also gives the audience a great symbolic scene that emphasizes how Hollywood changes around him over time.
Although the film does end on a redeeming note, most of the movie depicts the struggle that a once great silent film actor went through during the transition of silent films to talkies, during the late twenties. In fact, it's not surprising this movie has donned comparisons to classics like "Singin' in the Rain", as both films depict transition quite well in their own unique way. Although "Singin' in the Rain" was a bit more upbeat about the transition, "The Artist" seems a bit more down to earth with it's tone; while still capturing the once great art of silent movies to perfection. Sure, "The Artist" starts off upbeat at first, but as the movie plays on, it takes on more of a dramatic tone before shifting to it's redeeming climax.
Indeed, Michel Hazanavicius does a wonderful job orchestrating such a captivating film. Not only does "The Artist" capture the art of a once great film style, but he manages to pull it off with ease. Sure, the fact that it's a silent film may put off a lot of younger folks, but if you give it a chance, it may just surprise you.
Jean Dujardin does a wonderful job in his performance, as his character comes off as charming as a young Rudolph Valentino; displaying a wide array emotions to allow the audience to feel for his character. The same can be said of Berenice Bejo, who also seems like a natural acting in this silent picture. Sure, you don't often know what they're saying most of the time, but you don't have to. The body language and facial expressions of these actors alone are enough to make you feel drawn to them.
In the end, I would have to give this movie a four out of four. Although I doubt seriously "The Artist" is going to win over a lot of mainstream audiences with it's lost art in film making. However, if you have a deep appreciation for films and it's history like I do, then you'll definitely come to love this movie just as much.