Monday, December 5, 2011

12-01-11: Silence is Golden

THE ARTIST (2011) **** 100 mins. D: Michel Hazanavicius. Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller.

At the dawn of the Talkies, a silent film matinee idol struggles with the possibility that his career may be over and an ingenue skyrockets to fame as she embraces the new medium.

This is a very well produced, conceived, directed, acted and scored homage to the silent film era. It's unfortunate that the story itself is an all too familiar one about Hollywood itself.

Silent films can be tricky. When you factor out the score, you are solely dependent on the actors, the story and the images on screen. You can forgive the acting if it's over the top but if the story and images don't hold the viewer's attention they will drift or they will doze off. Now if the score is not engaging or doesn't fit the moment, the viewer may lose the story.

Hazanavicius succeeds in melding it all together with the exception of one key scene. In that case, how I interpreted that scene was different from what the score was conveying. I saw the character's reaction differently and the score only convoluted the matter. However, overall the score is very well done and harkens back to the olden days of live accompaniment.

I mentioned the story is all too familiar but he gets fine performances from his leads that at least make you want to see what happens to these characters. Actors like Goodman, Cromwell and McDowell give fine support in roles you've seen or can see them in before but not silent. Even the dog gives a stellar turn.

There are some moments in the film that were quite surprising, original and refreshing but I will not go into them. See for yourself.

If you've never seen a silent film before this is not a bad place to start.

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