Wednesday, January 11, 2012
THE ARTIST is a period piece silent movie set in Hollywood in the late ‘20s made by the French. Not exactly fanboy catnip.
But it works! Without any Spielberg schmaltz, Scorsese scope, or Tarantino too-coolness.
Director Michel Hazanavicius is to be applauded for three things – the script, the direction, and marrying the leading lady.
But Jean Dujardin steals the show as the swashbuckling leading man. He has the panache, the pencil-thin mustache, and soon a lot of awards. Consider this: he’s the first actor in a hundred years asked to carry a silent movie. (Clint Eastwood was just a day-player, not a leading man back then.)
THE ARTIST is a melodrama – which was the Merchant-Ivory drama style of the day. It uses every silent movie cliché but only to better recreate the genre. This is a loving homage, not the world’s longest Tracey Ullman sketch.
As a writer, I must say it’s a little humbling to see how little dialogue you need to tell a good story. This film is brimming with wonderful little character moments – subtle gestures, body language, glances. One of the many dangers of doing a modern-day silent movie is that the audience is paying way more attention to the technique than the story. But that doesn’t happen here. You get sucked in emotionally. Or at least I did.
I’m curious to hear what young people thought of this film. I’m curious to see whether young people even went to this film. Unless you’re a student of cinema, I would imagine most people under 40 have never seen a silent movie. Maybe they’ve seen clips but not an entire full-length feature. The Gish Sisters don’t ring a bell. Will THE ARTIST resonate with audiences who have no frame of reference? Will the deliberate mugging be perceived of as just corny? Will they become engrossed or say, “I gave up seeing THE MUPPET MOVIE for this?”
For my money, THE ARTIST was one of the most ambitious and satisfying films of the year. And it was so refreshing to see a silent movie where everyone in it isn't dead.
I think it will win some Oscars. Some Golden Globes for sure. (The Foreign Press and a film made on foreign soil? Unless the French restaurants where all the voters are employed as busboys and waitresses fire them, THE ARTIST is a shoo-in for those statutes.) Note: I will be reviewing the Golden Globes next Monday.
I understand that there's a campaign to get the dog an Oscar nomination. As if Albert Brooks isn't bitter enough -- can you imagine if he loses a Best Supporting Actor nomination to a dog? Woof!
Oh, and a note to Ted Turner: Please don't colorize this movie. Thank you.
By Ken Levine at 5:57 AM