Being burdened, as I am, with the unquenchable desire to procrastinate, I have watched an unholy multitude of movies in my life. So when I noticed that this film, The Artist, had won its fair share of awards in Cannes and, more recently, at the Golden Globes…I figured it would be worth a watch. It’s difficult nowadays, as we are constantly barraged with trailers and interviews and other shit, to approach a movie knowing nothing. Yet somehow I began this film with less knowledge than [GOP Candidate] has about [topical social issue].
The film starts, cue opening credits, ‘starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo’. My eye twitches. Dear God, they’re French. Now readers there are really only three things I satirically hate in this world; one of them is French people, and the other two are France. “Oh…It’s a French film..”, I thought to myself, and swallowing my pride I kept watching, determined to conquer whatever Francophile perversions lay in wait for me.
Hollywood, 1926, the rise of the motion picture industry in America. The opening scene depicts a lavish theater overflowing with movie-goers of the day. On screen the silent picture shows a daring hero escaping a Russian prison, the crowd stares in awe as a Russian soldier falls out a first floor window; literally the greatest special effect they’ve ever seen. The film ends, audience erupts in applause, yet they make no sound. My life flashes before my eyes as I realize that The Artist is a silent film. A silent French film.
Hours later a bald eagle sheds a single tear onto my forehead and I awake laying on my kitchen floor, having been revived from a fatal brain aneurysm. Much like Gandalf I had been sent back from the beyond with a single purpose, to finish this film. Roughly an hour and a half later, my task was complete. Time for some real talk: for all my outrageous predilections for making fun of French things, The Artist was honestly not bad.
The story focuses on the rise and subsequent fall of George Valentin, Hollywood’s silent film superstar. He loves the audience, the fame, himself, and his trusty canine companion Jack. At the height of his Ryan Gosling-level domination of early Hollywood, he meets a young nothing of a woman named Peppy. She eventually lands a small role as an extra, and per usual her career takes off. At the same moment George’s career runs into a hiccup when someone decides, “Hey, let’s add sounds?” The man made famous by silent films quickly writes off the new “talkies” as a passing trend. Thus his ignorance and pride cast him into a downward spiral involving alcohol, divorce, and the stock market crash in 1929.
What The Artist does well:
The film’s lack of dialogue is obviously uncommon, yet after suffering through New Years Eve, I am well aware of just how absolutely God-awful, I mean seriously, horrifyingly terrible, bad dialogue can be, and this silent film was refreshing in that regard. The original score was great; the images and corresponding music blended in such a way that modern films rarely achieve. Plus the depiction of the beginnings of Hollywood and celebrity life in the late 20’s were pretty accurate. I would know, I took “History of the 1920’s” in college #liberalarts. Overall The Artist takes what was a simpler time for movies and creates a simple, uncomplicated, enjoyable film that stands out alongside the general onslaught of crap Hollywood produces today.
What The Artist does poorly:
The movie relies somewhat heavily on overused “set pieces”, and by that I mean: man saved by a dog, emotional hospital visit, drunken man realizes himself to be root of own unhappiness (proceeds to drink more), woman drives poorly through traffic on a frantic errand. Also, without giving away too much if anyone is actually going to watch this movie, the ending sort of takes an uncomfortable jolt from a dramatic scene into a strange dance number. But most importantly, and this is a “spoiler”, but in said dramatic scene George’s handgun seemingly misfires, ricochets, and KILLS HIS DOG. And they just cut away to the dancing, just like that. No mention of poor Jack’s fate. I don’t know why I expected anything more from the French…
*All jokes aside the French are a wonderful and vibrant people, it’s just that I had a bad experience in Paris with a gypsy when I was five. (true story)