The Artist is a piece of art and for a film that is in black and white, that fact speaks volume about what is at the film’s heart: A terrific story told with power and grace.
Could anyone have imagined that one of the most astounding films of 2011 would be a black and white silent film? The Artist proves that with a great tale, acting that doesn’t require words to emit emotion, plus a director working at the top of his game, film possesses the ability to transport an audience, regardless of actors delivering lines to move the story.
Since The Artist debuted at Cannes, the buzz has been fierce. Jean Dujardin won Best Actor at the film festival, and rightly so as his performance is the stuff of legend. Dujardin deserves Oscar consideration as well. The actor portrays a silent film actor, who is arguably the most renowned of his generation. As the era of silent films is beginning to wane, he holds the belief that talkies are merely a fad, and that the art of silent cinema will still be the way audiences choose to see their films. Of course, history has proven him wrong. In The Artist, that shift in popular taste is showcased through Dujardin’s character and his slow downfall and Berenice Bejo’s portrayal of a young starlet who would become the talking pictures’ first real star.
The chemistry between the two leads is stellar. There’s a hint of romance that may or may not play out over the course of the film, but what The Artist is at its heart, is a love story for movie fans who appreciate the history of motion pictures. Routinely in the film, Dujardin’s character is asked why he doesn’t speak. Yes, The Artist is a silent film, but his lack of vocal pronouncement has more to do with his pride than his ability to enunciate his feelings through sound. It is a powerful paradigm that reflects the themes that lie at The Artist’s core. The film reflects the natural human condition to resist change and the lengths we go to to convince ourselves that the old guard will remain in place, despite proof that is otherwise palpable.
The Artist is a unique movie-going experience in 2011. To witness the magic of the movies, where the only sounds are that of the commanding soundtrack is one to treasure. It is a tall mountain to climb for its cast that has grown up and spent their years becoming actors studying the craft of delivering lines. Not only do Dujardin and Bejo shine, but also John Goodman and Missi Pyle as a studio executive and starlet, Penelope Ann Miller and James Cromwell as Dujardin’s wife and driver respectively.
Director Michel Hazanavicius had to have a complete mastery of the filmmaking process to be able to make a silent movie in today’s marketplace that would move audiences accustomed to a verbal movement of story. Hazanavicius' use of his actor’s physical prowess as a replacement for vocal resonance is the stuff of modern movie brilliance. That is why The Artist not only works, but excels.