Wednesday, February 15, 2012
film review: The Artist
The basics: Set in 1927, The Artist is the story of George Valentin, an enormously famous silent film star. It traces George's fate as talkies begin to dominate the film industry.
My thoughts: I took many film courses in college, and I've sat through more silent films than I wish I had. (While there are some that stand up to my modern viewing sensibilities, most I would have preferred to see clips from.) I think even those only familiar with silent films in the abstract aspect will understand their conventions in this film and enjoy the seemingly inside jokes about silent films.
I hoped The Artist would move beyond its conventions and provide a modern take on silent film. I hoped it would explore the human condition in a meaningful way. It didn't, but despite these misgivings, there is a lot of good in this film. Jean Dujardin was amazing. He embodied the era in pose, facial expressions and tap dance. Berenice Bejo was every bit his equal, expect in screen time. The two had chemistry, humor and were delightful to watch. While the acting was excellent, the most interesting part of the film was how it played with sound. The few scenes in which the film stepped out of the confines of being a silent movie were inventive and inspired, but they were ultimately overshadowed by the film's predictability that rendered it mostly ordinary.
Where the film stalled, however, was in its storyline. Once the stage was set (and the first hour of the film is excellent), it took the humor, joy and pain and turned authentic emotion into melodrama. It didn't work for me, but I am clearly in the minority.
The verdict: Despite a strong premise, ultimately The Artist was too predictable and melodramatic to allow its excellent acting to truly shine.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 100 minutes
Release date: it's in theaters now (see where it's playing near you)
Source: I paid to see at the Fleur Cinema (for only $6.50--I love Des Moines!)
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