Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Artist (2011)




Ever since I read about The Artist, saw pictures of it, and saw the trailer on TV I had to see the movie. After waiting for months for the movie to come out somewhere around me I finally got to see it.
            If you are a classic film buff like me you will have read about the silent era and how with the coming of sound many of the most famous stars were out of a job. Gloria Swanson thought sound was a fad but she made her silent film masterpiece Sadie Thompson in 1929. Several actors and actresses were never the same again after their careers disappeared and turned to alcohol as they faded into oblivion.
            The Artist tells such a story (without the tragic ending) about a silent actor named George Valentin. He is the idol of millions and the most handsome man on the screen. Everyone at the studio loves him. He makes all kinds of films that also star his dog. Like most actors of the time (and since) he is married but he has a wandering eye.
            At the premier of one of his newest pictures he bumps into a young girl. The papers snap pictures of the girl and the star together and wonder who the beautiful girl could be. The next day the girl- named Peppy Miller- walks into the studio where George is the star and gets a small part in one of his films. There is a bit of a spark between the two of them.
            By 1929 the sound era has begun. George’s boss wants him to do a talkie but he tells the boss that he is an artist he does not want to make sound movies they are a fad. Meanwhile Peppy goes from a chorus girl to top billed star. George sinks money into a silent film he has written, acted, and directed in. No one goes to see it everyone is on line to see Peppy’s first starring film.
            George loses everything. All his possessions have to be auctioned off to pay the bills. He pawns whatever he can so he can get alcohol. One night in despair he unravels his films and sets fire to them. He saves his one film though, which Peppy’s sees was her first film. Peppy has always had a soft spot for George. She loves him and feels bad for what has happened to him. In the end she helps him find his way back into films.
            There is so much more to The Artist but why give a good thing away.
            I could seriously just gush over how perfect this movie was. There really was no flaw in it everything was just perfection. The direction and cinematography are incredible. The director Michael Hazanavicius said that he filmed the movie in the traditional 1:33:1 ratio because “it was perfect for actors” it gave them power, strength and presence since “they occupy all the space of the screen.” I think that is highly missing in films today the actors do not convey presence or strength or power because there is too much going on around them we are not meant to focus on the actor. The story is about actors and we are focused for the entire run of the movie on these actors they occupy the screen and do so magnificently. Why do you think Garbo was so adored? Imagine seeing her beautiful face on a thirty foot high screen, 1920s and 30s audiences couldn’t get enough. Hazanavicius also wrote the screenplay. You can tell he really liked what he wrote about and really has a passion for it because he added much homage to era and many of its stars (Peppy’s house was actually Mary Pickford’s home, for one).
            Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo were flawless. They had the look they seem to have come right out of the silent era. They looked great together. The characters were written beautifully and Dujardin and Bejo brought their character’s beauty out fantastically.
            Sitting through The Artist is one of the most amazing movie experiences I have ever sat through. I had high expectations about it from all I had read and seen and every one of those expectations was met with ten times more than I expected. I did not want it to end I wanted to see more of these characters and their lives. I felt like I was watching two classic actors and usually when I like a classic actor/actress (or even modern ones) I want to see whatever film I can find of them and that is what I felt as I watched George Valentin and Peppy Miller. I knew I loved this movie when I walked out wondering when it was coming out on DVD. The only other films I have ever done that with have been The Adjustment Bureau and Midnight in Paris this year. The Artist gives me hope that more filmmakers and screenwriters in the future will make high quality, unique movies like this.

            The Artist is hands down my pick for best movie of 2011