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Stewart Smith

The Artist

The Artist posterThe Artist is one of the nine movies in line for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is also in the race for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Screenplay…  And it’s silent!

You heard me right. Apart from the excellent music score, the movie is silent throughout…  Oh, and it’s in black & white!

I bet some of you out there are saying, “So why does it deserve all these nominations? Surely the 1920s’ format is just some sort of gimmick!”

Well, as a matter of fact, it isn’t.

Let’s look at a few of these nominations individually. First up is Best Original Screenplay. The story starts out in the middle of a silent movie theater. From there we watch an actor in a torture scene. This displays the idea of a silent theater’s appeal to the common audience. As the movie within a movie progresses, we see the reactions of the crowd as the prisoner tries to make his escape. We then cut behind the scenes, watching the actors and producers all hanging around on the other side of the screen.

When the film ends, the lead actor, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) walks out onto the stage. He is supposed to bow and make way for the leading actress, but instead he hogs the spotlight and displays tricks with his trained stage dog, Uggie. (Who is, by the way, a giant hit with the real life press.)  This shows how much George adores his job, and how much he loves to be the center of attention.

George has a chance meeting with a young would-be actress and dancer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and helps her get a part in his new film.

A few years later, sound in movies is invented, unwilling to make the leap to the “talkies,” George is fired and Peppy takes over the spotlight. Faced with a crisis of purpose, we follow George’s desperate attempts to cling to his old life as he falls into a spiral of depression. Certainly a movie with such deep emotion hand-carved into its surface must receive due recognition.

The movie may be in a silent format, but being in such a form allows the audience to focus on some things more frequently put on secondary priority, including cinematography and music. The camerawork in The Artist is exquisite. It both captures the feel of an old-time movie, and uses modern technology to create a sharper picture and more dynamic transitions. Although a French production, the movie was shot on location here in Los Angeles and is a real homage to old Hollywood.

The music in The Artist is absolutely riveting. Because movies lacked sound in the 1920s, they often provided music from an orchestra stationed below the stage. This means that the clearest way filmmakers had to display emotion was through a good score. And this one takes the cake. I am certain that this will win the Oscar for Best Original Score for its powerful and beautiful masterpiece of a soundtrack by composer Ludovic Bource.

Now let’s look at the Lead Actor and Supporting Actress. Another thing that a lack of talking requires is emotion. This is what all the cameras and composers worked so hard to supplement. The difference between a “talkie’s” emotion and that of a silent movie is that in a “talkie” a sad man can just say, “I am feeling sad,” and that is the end of it. With a silent movie, you don’t have speech to make life easier. Everything has to be conveyed through emotion. And with these two performers, I felt extremely impacted in this beautiful way.

All these incredible, magical things, are what make The Artist so great. It can take music, emotion, and cinematography and blend them together to make a fantastic work of art – all without the aid of sound or color. And this is why it deserves its nomination for Best Picture of 2012.

Age Recommendation: It can be dramatically distressing at times. There isn’t really any profanity or violence otherwise, so I guess I would say 11 and up, a MATURE 11 and up.

Final Verdict: A thrilling performance. I loved it. 10/10

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{ 5 comments… add one }

  • Nan February 17, 2012, 1:49 pm

    I’m so glad you loved it Stewart – I did too!! It picked up 6 awards here at the BAFTA’s and I’m sure it’s going to do the same at the OSCAR’s . I went to see it while I was in Hastings with Pat and she loved it as much as I did. We thought the pic of your Dad with UGGY was great too!!
    Keep up the good work and I’m sure we will be reading your Reviews in the papers and magazines one of these days!! Lots of love – Nan x

  • Bruce Stewart February 18, 2012, 7:55 am

    Stewart you have really done it, I want to see this movie!!!! Usually when you review a movie and it hits me, “This is good!”, I will wait and when the movie becomes DVD I will rent it. This time I really want to see it no matter if it costs $20.00! Oops, $40.00, Gran probably will want to see it too!
    Papa Bruce.

  • Alba February 18, 2012, 8:43 am

    Nice review, Stewart — good job of addressing objections the average person might feel about seeing a silent film while expressing what you loved about it! BTW, when I was 8-11 years old I loved going to the local “art house” movie theatre to see old silent movies with Chaplin, Keaton, Lillian Gish — those actors all knew so well how to express themselves without words. I haven’t seen The Artist — your review reminded me that I definitely want to see it on a big screen! Looking forward to your next review so keep ‘em comin’!

  • Gran Stewart February 18, 2012, 12:50 pm

    Seems to me you are truly putting your little work space to good use. Perhaps this flick has something special to offer folks who need captions like myself, too. Great photography and music would probably satisfy me as well. I’ll report back.

  • Diana February 20, 2012, 2:07 pm

    WOW! Thanks Stewart! now i really want to see the movie!

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