Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Artist: Who'da thunk?

Never in a million years would I have thought that a SILENT film, would be called "the film of the year" and "a masterpiece" in 2012. And yet here we are, in the middle of award season, and only one film is on everybodys lips - The Artist. I will admit, however, that I was very sceptical when I heard about the film initially. My thoughts were a mixture of "no! leave silent films alone - they will never be as good - this is an insult to the great stars and makers of the silent era" but I was wrong. If anything, The Artist highlights just how beautiful, and equally brilliant, silents truly are. Like the Harry Potter franchise inspiring more people to read, I believe The Artist will inspire more people to check out films from the silent era itself - the films that started it all.

And before you say it - The Artist is not just a rehash of Singin' in the Rain - far from it. It is an exceptionally comical, but moving tale of a big star George Valentin ( Jean Dujardin) who loses everything with the advent of talkies, and it's all down to the new star of Hollywood, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) to help him out.

Dujardin is obviously modelled on Douglas Fairbanks Sr, and if I am correct, some scenes from Fairbanks's The Mark of Zorro picture are used in the film. But Dujardin also reminded me a lot of Gene Kelly - that irresistible grin, charm and confidence oozing from every pore of his body - it felt like I was watching a real star from the 1920s. As for Bejo, not only is she beautiful beyond words, but I'm pretty sure she is modelled on a young Joan Crawford - the hairstyle, eye make-up, and the fact that Crawford was in silent pictures but found stardom in the talkies, is identical to that of the Peppy Miller character. Both actors give outstanding performances, and both have been Oscar-nominated. Do they deserve these nominations? Absolutely, and if they both win then it is well-deserved, and I will be overjoyed if this does indeed happen.

The film has been nominated for Best Picture, and I would bet money on it winning - what a pleasant surprise, and surreal experience it was to watch a silent film, made in the 21st Century, that was at the same great standard as it's predecessors from 80+ years earlier. In my opinion, The Artist joins the other great silent pictures like Modern Times, Greed, Broken Blossoms et al. as well as all the other great talking pictures over the century. The Artist is a classic - my deepest congratulations and thanks go to the makers of the film, the stars of the film, and all who contributed in making the unbelievable a reality.

Even the score is fantastic: composer Ludovic Bource - who is also nominated for an Oscar - who clearly studied the music from previous silents and the work of such great silent composers as Carl Davis, therefore creating an authentic and moving soundtrack, that is equally as great as the cinematography, direction and everything else that is great about this film.

The ending too - is absolutely perfect. I was hoping they would end it the way the did - it was the only way to end it! Truly capturing the beauty, magic, pathos and nature of silent film and of the era, but also highlighting the tragic, and sometimes fatal truth of what came with the production of talkies, and the abandonment of silents.

Watching this film in the cinema, where the audience laughed, cried, and cheered - regardless that it was silent and in black and white, was truly an emotional and highly moving experience. I felt like movie history was being made, and that all the silent greats - Chaplin, Griffith, Gish, Valentino, Garbo, Keaton, and all the rest - were watching it with me, and seeing that their once universal language and magical art form, had made a victorious comeback, conquering all it's contemporaries, in being the most acclaimed and glorified film of the year.

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