When the phrase “silent film” is heard, most people grumble and complain. To many, silent film means gritty black-and-white, obnoxious overacting, silly slapstick comedy, and inter-titles that replace any and all dialogue.
In short, it is not the kind of movie most people want to pay to see on a Friday night. But, as a critic and a lover of movies, I beg you: If you see one movie for the rest of the year, let it be “The Artist”. You will not be let down.
Yes, “The Artist” is a black-and-white silent film but, do not let that scare you away. Just as you should not be put off by the use of subtitles in a foreign film, the lack of voices should not be viewed as a hindrance to the level of entertainment the movie provides.
I found the silence (it’s not really silent because there is music playing for 99 percent of the movie) to be somewhat of a breath of fresh air. It is quite fun, really, getting to know these characters through their movements and their expressions only.
Paying homage to early silent film stars like Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, and directors like Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, who pioneered what we now know as the movies, “The Artist” follows a simple story.
The year is 1927 and the whole film community is in a buzz over the latest and greatest invention: the talkie picture. Silent star George Valentin, currently at the top of his game starring in swashbuckling romantic adventures, however, feels hostile to the sudden overhaul of talkies.
So much so, that when his studio announces an end to their silent endeavors, Valentin leaves to direct, produce, finance and star in his own silent film.
Propelled forward by impeccable performances from its two leads, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, and with a perfect pace from writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, I quickly reached the point where I forgot I was watching a silent film.
Any negative presuppositions or any doubts were quickly, and thankfully, erased. There is such a sense of life and joy in the characters Hazanavicius has drawn.
I loved every minute of this film and cannot wait to return to it. Most movies I see are unmemorable; they pass through my mind rather quickly and leave no lasting impression.
However, “The Artist” is delightfully different. That is, in fact, the best word I can use to sum up what is currently being predicted to take home the best picture prize at the Academy Awards next month: delightful. Some movies remind us why we love going to the movies but, some, like “The Artist”, remind us why we must go to the movies. This is escapism at its best and it is, without a doubt, the best movie of the year.
Sometimes silence really is golden.