Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Artist - I applaud it, but how will it be remembered?

The Artist (2012)
Comedy, Romance, Drama, 100 minutes
Directed by Michael Hazanavicius
Starring  Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and John Goodman

I make an effort to see all of the major Oscar bait, even if it's something that I am not sure I'll like. The Artist falls into that category. I have no problem with black and white or the use of the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, but a silent movie? The idea itself is superb of course. Most moviegoers are too young to remember the silent era, so why not provide a similar experience using modern technology?

Most of the reviews I have read have praised the movie and it's scooping awards at every major show. Is the hype justified?

Well, it was certainly an interesting experience. The audience was very respectful and quieter than for most movies. The movie is silent for the most part, but finds a couple of inventive ways to use both sounds and spoken dialogue. It's easy to follow the rather simple story, and title cards are used when something absolutely has to be communicated to the audience. The acting is very good. Dujardin and Bejo have expressive faces that are up to the task. Dujardin has a lot of charm and seems to portray happiness with ease.

The audience didn't become involved very often. What few laughs there were usually came in response to the antics of Uggie the dog. In fact, that's the problem right there, involvement. The Artist was clever. I applaud the idea and the execution, but I just wasn't emotionally invested with the characters and the outcome. I found myself smiling at the technical feat of showing us 1927 and creating the atmosphere of the silent movie experience, but I didn't care enough about the characters.

Most of my favorite movies are driven by dialogue. I relish watching a Tarantino movie and could listen to the characters talk for hours. When that's removed, for me, so is some of the enjoyment.

I'll remember The Artist as a good idea that captured the imagination of a modern audience, but when you strip it down to what's actually on the screen and examine the strength of the story, something is lacking. I'm glad I saw it, but I won't buy it as I don't need to see it again. When the credits started rolling at the end of The Descendants and Midnight in Paris, I would have been happy to watch them again immediately. The Artist will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars, but I think eventually we'll look back at 2011 and think that it wasn't the best film that year.

For the idea and execution: 5/5

For the strength of story and replay value: 3/5

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  1. Could I ask you one question please? If you felt emotionally detached from the film, how then can you say you give it top marks for idea and execution? Surely it needed to communicate emotion for it to be executed properly?
    Personally, I felt emotionally attached to the film.


    aka @Poochface

    1. Hi Lynn,
      I liked the idea of making a silent film about the end of the silent era. I thought they acted well. The whole thing was lacking from my point of view due to the limitations of the genre, but I'm glad it worked for you. I know some people had a strong positive reaction to the film so maybe the failing was in me? I just couldn't develop a deep connection with the characters, though they did well with what they had to work with.

  2. I agree with you. It's a nice, enjoyable movie but it's mostly style over substance. If silent films were still the norm, this would not receive the same praise.

  3. Great review Steve.

    As someone who hasn't seen 'The Artist' yet I think you touch upon one of the main aspects of why I am not too keen on seeing it. Dialogue is one of my favourite things about a film, being the Tarantino fan that I am, and whilst I agree that using modern technology to create a silent film is an interesting concept I don't know if it's captured my imagination enough to warrant a cinema viewing.

  4. Thanks Russell.

    I certainly wouldn't tell anyone to avoid seeing it as many of my friends adore it, but dialogue is hugely important to me too.

    Tarantino has four or five entries in my all time Top 20.