UAC Film: “The Artist”

UAC Film: The Artist

Story by Emily Gresbrink, Freelancer

Out of the audible cacophony, special effect storm and marketing chaos of modern cinema, one film has risen and prove true a time-old phrase:
“silence is golden.”
The 2011 Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning film, “The Artist” is a black-and-white, silent feature from France that takes viewers back to the silent film era. Playing this weekend in the Woodland Theatre, it will be the second film in the UAC Campus
Film Series.
Set in the 1920s, the film focuses on a major silent film star, George Valentin (Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin). When George meets a young dancer, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), she bursts into the studio back lot with charm, talent, and a prominent chemistry with George.
However, when the studio executives choose to hush silent films for good, talking pictures — with Peppy as the studio starlet — bring in the money.  Thus, the curtain falls on George’s career, and the audience witnesses his fall along with it.
This is one movie that, upon an initial viewing, I knew would be the best picture winner, February at the Oscars. Even now, as I sit in my apartment in front of my computer watching it, I still have those moments of
awe; every time I see “The Artist,” it’s the first time all over again.
I have reason to believe it is one of the best movies of the last five years. Based on artistic merit and achievement alone, there truly is no
other film like it.
Simply put, it’s the non-verbal dialogue (some “talking” occurs over cue cards and receives emphasis through strong orchestration) and black-and-white cinematography that pull this film into the spotlight.
One might say such stylized movies are seen as overly artistic or obscure, but director and writer Michel Hazanavicius brings back a lost style of movie-making. It’s the precision recapturing of vintage cinematography and detail to 1920s culture that
make it work.
For example — the tight shots of the actor’s faces and soft white light on their faces re-create the intimate scenes similar to ones seen in sweeping romances such as “Casablanca.”  Panning shots of the dancing scenes with large prop-heavy sets behind them
recreate the back lot sets that stars such as Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire danced through.
But all technicalities aside, the appealing plot and precision acting make it a head-turner by itself as well.
Dujardin’s performance as George Valentin is a jewel — we feel emotions of pain, depression, despair, and love — all without words.  We see Bejo as a sweet starlet who gets it all, but never forgets where she came from. We watch the rise and fall of a movie era, with no more than 25 words
spoken throughout.
The rest of the cast is spot-on as well, both in appearance and characterization. Yes, even Jack the dog is good. He could have won an Oscar too.
Don’t let silence and lack of color keep you away from Davies this weekend — it won dozens of awards for a reason. With a daringly different style of filmmaking in an age of special effects and big explosions, this film most certainly made some noise in Hollywood — and will even break your
silence and have you talking about it.