Film Friday: The Artist

Hollywood loves movies about making movies. The Academy does as well, leading to many of these films sweeping the categories when it comes to award season. There is usually a struggling artist looking for their big break and the overall message to follow your dreams (ie. La La Land). The Artist has this as well. Winner of Best Picture in 2012, The Artist was made in the style of a black-and-white silent film. While it has the classic Hollywood story, I think there is more to it than that.

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, The Artist focuses on the relationship between a silent film star and a rising young actress in the late 1920’s Hollywood. As silent cinema falls out of action and is replaced by “talkies”, their careers veer in opposite directions.

Jean Dujardin's character George Valentin is a huge star whose career starts to plummet with the rise of talkies. Perhaps a great deal due to his pride and insecurities as well as his insistence that the talkies are simply a fad, Valentin's refusal to change with the times leads to great monetary and personal struggle. Valentin's struggle is one that shows how hard it can be to change with the times. Sometimes change can be good though! It is never too late to start new or try again, as Valentin does as the film comes to an end. He learns to accept help and go with the change, while still putting his own creative spin on his work. Overcoming his own personal demons and doubts, Valentin continues to do what he loves to do, an important message for anyone going through a lull in their life or career.

A word that I used many times to describe The Artist in the past has been: refreshing. The film is simply so refreshing in its unique style and tone. Not to say that it broke huge grounds for being a black-and-white silent film, since those were already a part of film history. Rather, in a day and age where blockbusters are loitered with huge special effects and constant remakes and reboots, it was refreshing to see a film that was so different. The film's take on a silent pictures is the perfect canvas to lay out its story on. The story can seem rather quaint, but I believe it to be well developed. It came to my attention that the film also used a section of the famous love theme from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, which led to some criticism. While an original piece or perhaps a remastering of the theme could have been featured, I see the use of the score to be yet another homage Hazanavicius pays to the old Hollywood.

Jean Dujardin really carries the film and his performance is divine. One of my favorite scenes of the film was one in which his character Valentin has a nightmare where a variety of everyday sounds are exaggerated (the first sounds the audience actually hears in the film). Valentin opens his mouth but finds that only his own voice is stifled. The scene was chock full of emotion and was acted out flawlessly. Bérénice Bejo was also lovely as the film's up and coming leading lady, with true grace and charm paralleling Valentin perfectly. Of course we cannot forget Uggie the dog, who sadly passed away in 2015.

The Artist is a film I believe everyone should try to see. It is ironically new in it's style and a breath of fresh air in the current era of modern cinema. Valentin's trials and errors are ones that can be surprisingly relatable, but give hope that success can be achieved again, no matter how hard the journey.

On the Ticket Love scale, I give The Artist 5 out of 5 ticket stubs.

[Article originally published 02/02/2018]

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