Saturday, March 10, 2012

Movie Review: "The Artist"

I don't remember when exactly but I think it was the Summer of 2010, I saw a movie about the creation of Charlie Chaplin as an actor and his films. A few days after seeing the movie I asked my father why movies done in the old style (black and white/no sound) were never made any more? I thought it would be great to make and see such a film. Somewhere somebody listened because The Artist is just that, my prayers answered. This four Oscar-winning "silent" film is a French film with a majority of the cast being French. When the Oscars and Cesars (french equivalent of the Oscars, film prizes) rolled around it picked up everything it could, even Best Motion Picture Film. My host mom and I hadn't seen it yet and the movie theatre in town had brought it back for a few weeks even though it originally came out around six months ago. I decided to go, mostly skeptical about how good it actually is, whether it really deserves all those awards and whether or not I would get anxious just watching a silent film. I love films, even more in black and white (you see facial expressions better, there is a beautiful lighting style to play with in black and white films) but I wasn't sure I could go so long without hearing someone talk. The beginning of the film copied very well how older films did the title screen, slowly and calmly introducing us to the world of classical Hollywood. The music played a very important role in the film, becoming in a way the musical interpretation of the dialogue we were missing out on. But also, the silent parts of this movie were well arranged, added something incredible to the scenes. About ten minutes into the film we can hear our first big break from music, a ten second silence, and in that the tension mounts, worry comes to the actors faces, a type of agony comes from the audience from the lack of sound. And then it's restored with a beautiful piece of score. I've always weighed the importance of music and score in a movie as one of the most important aspects in the film viewing experience for myself. The Artist played well and did a good job imitating the type of sound and score from films made in the 1920's. So did the action and sight gags of the film. There was only one scene that didn't fit in with the rest of the movie to make the point of the changing styles in the 1920's and 30's where we could hear small actions, the sound of a glass being put on a table, the screeching of chairs. The movie, essentially, revolves around the evolution from silent films to talkies, the films with sound and dialogue we know today. There are two main characters, one a stubborn silent film star hesitant of this new move in cinema (Jean Dujardin) and the other a young budding actress who embraces the talkies and gains her fame from them (Bérénice Benjo). The struggle comes from their love interest and his own personal struggle to remain on top of the rolling ball that is cinema. Some scenes of this movie were metaphorical, something you don't get much in today's world because of the high amount of action and special effects. I was so happy to go a few hours without seening a complex special effect, which after some time becomes saturating. Anyways, as the characters evolve and change so does the actual foundations of the movie. This means talking.

I asked to my host mom her opinions on why The Artist had won so many awards in the U.S. , it being a french "silent" film. She essentially told me that it was because it made Americans think it was American. It copied itself so well that it fooled some people to thinking it was theirs, it came from their backyard. I could see why but it also shows the little people keep track of their favorite films/directors/creative content. Anyways, my personal opinion is that it was a nice tribute to the roots of modern cinema and it was needed to show that you don't need massive special effects and action scenes to be recognized. Some people may call it a de-evolution while I see it as maybe another building ground, a piece that reminds new creators that what worked in the past, the tugging of heart strings with old styles, can have the same effect on people now.

La Fin

p.s. I wrote this blogpost because of my love of film and also that it is a huge topic and honor for France and the French people. 

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