I suppose this is the week I see films that celebrate the classic days of cinema. Two days after seeing the cinematic history lesson Hugo, I see The Artist – an ambitious silent film about the end of silent cinema.
Making classic-style silent film – complete with intertitles for dialogue – more than 80 years after the end of the format may come-off as a gimmick to some, but The Artist truly comes off as a serious homage to silent cinema that could have well been made in the 1920s.
The film stars two relatively unknown French actors (Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo), both of whom have an incredible screen presence. The film also features appearances by some more well-known actors, such as John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Malcolm McDowell, all of whom are interesting to see in a silent context (Goodman in particular was made for these types of films).
One character that absolutely steals the show isn’t even human at all. The lead character of George Valentin (Dujardin) is nearly always accompanied by an absolutely cute (and well-trained) Jack Russell Terrier. The dog’s performance is so good, that I almost wish that the Academy had a Best Supporting Canine Oscar.
Being a film about the transition from silent cinema to “talkies,” I was impressed by the subtle use of sound in the film. It’s only in a couple of scenes and the film is still 99% silent, but I found these scenes really well done and (as hypocritical as it sounds) they deserve an Oscar nomination for sound editing.
Overall, I have to say that The Artist is an excellent homage to world of silent films, which probably gave the audience a much more escapist experience than the loud and expensive Hollywood blockbusters of today.