Saturday, December 24, 2011

Phil sees THE ARTIST at the Camera 7 Pruneyard-December 24, 2011

I have been dying to see this film! Now you all know that I am an avid silent film fan. I mean, I volunteer at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum for crying out loud. Now I first became aware of this film when I went to Southern California for my vacation back in September. My friend that I was staying showed me the trailer for the film and I was totally blown away! Just by the trailer! I couldn't believe that someone actually made a silent film ON PURPOSE! That sounded very exciting to me. With the release of Martin Scorsese's new film HUGO, now it seems to be that silent films are once again back in style. And with this film THE ARTIST, movie goers are going to be surprised at just how amazing silent films are!

Theatrical Movie Poster (2011)
Set in Hollywood between 1927-1932, the film follows silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who just happens to be THE biggest movie star in Hollywood. After the preview of his newest film A Russian Affair, he starts posing for the paparazzi when he accidentally meets a woman, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a fan who gets swept up in the moment and poses with George for the paparazzi. Peppy uses this exposure to kick start her fledgling acting career. Her first bit part is along side George in his new film. But Kinograph Studios boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) takes his studio in a whole new direction: talkies! Soon George's career ends while Peppy's takes off into the stratosphere, but she never forgot who gave her her big break. Soon their paths crossed once again, and this time, she repays him and gives him his break that she owed him.

The filmmakers clearly did their homework when they made the film. First off, the film is shot like the old silent films: in real black-and-white film in the 1.33 aspect ratio. The set designs in the film were dead on, recapturing the look of Hollywood (filming took place during seven weeks on location in Los Angeles).  Director Michel Hazanavicius (OSS 117: Lost in Rio, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies) had always wanted to make a silent film, and his love for these lost classics can be seen in every single frame of this film. This was a labor of love, and he did extensive research about 1920s Hollywood, and studied silent films to find the right techniques to make the story comprehensible without having to use too many intertitles. There were quite a few German films that used this technique as well, like F.W. Murnau's 1927 classic SUNRISE and Arthur Robinson, whose 1923 silent film WARNING SHADOWS didn't have any intertitles at all.

Hazanavicius played various music from classic Hollywood films while the actors performed, much like they did back in the silent film days. Dujardin channels Douglas Fairbanks: suave, arrogant, athletic, with a pinch of humor for good measure. At one point in the film, George is watching one of his silent films (Zorro to be exact) and what I loved was that it really was the Douglas Fairbanks film that we were seeing. Very clever of Hazanavicius to sneak that in. Also one cannot forget Bejo, whose Peppy radiates life, youth, and becomes the face of change as she becomes the darling of the new talking Hollywood. Bejo give Peppy that innocence, the wholesome image that catapults her to becoming "America's sweetheart," a title that once belonged to Mary Pickford, who was also married to Fairbanks. Is it me or do I see a similarity here?

Now, as we say over at the museum, silent films were never silent, for they had the best musicians bringing these images to life. Composer Ludovic Bource’s continuous score is just absolutely amazing; it compliments the film perfectly, without going too overboard. It really is one of the best scores I have ever heard.

THE ARTIST is superb film; a crowning achievement in cinema as it beautifully recaptures the silent film era while simultaneously bringing it for 21st Century audiences to experience. As I said earlier, silent films are making a comeback, so next time you go tot the movies, instead of seeing the same 'ol blockbuster, go see this film, and be prepared to see how fantastic silent films are. Five out of five stars!! Highly recommended!!

THE ARTIST is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including at the Camera Cinemas here in the South Bay. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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