With Hollywood producing films that include brand new technology that enhances sound and color, it is hard to imagine that there once was an era in film that was dominated by silent movies that were filmed in black and white. Movie goers are so used to seeing vivid, HD images and having surround sound that watching a film with no sound and no color requires viewers to avidly pay attention and is quite an unnerving experience.
“The Artist,” directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is a silent movie filmed entirely in black and white. The film follows the story of George Valentin(Jean Dujardin), a major silent film actor who is widely successful and entertaining. Valentin also produces most of the films he has starred in, alongside his fellow producer, Al Zimmer (John Goodman). Valentin has the fortune of discovering aspiring dancer and actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who ultimately replaces Valentin as one of the biggest stars in “talkie” films, which are films that have technology that includes sound instead of subtitles. The film follows the downfall of Valentin and the success of Miller, who ultimately ends up bringing Valentin to the big screen again.
What is interesting about “The Artist” is that it is a film that one must concentrate on. Because the storyline is mostly interpreted and only a few subtitles help with the dialogue, it is a film that requires close attention.
Bejo was absolutely charming as the leading female character. She did such a marvelous job playing a young starlet who was ready to take Hollywood by storm. Dujardin was mesmerizing as the big time silent movie actor, George Valentin. His classic looks were perfect for the role.
However, it was the tragic demise of the silent film era that was very prevalent during the film. It was interesting to see the difference between the marketing of the silent films and films that included sound. While silent films included a smaller budget, the “talkies” worked with a big enough budget and produced much excitement that interviews with the “talkie” actresses and actors were broadcast throughout radio and big bulletins were printed in order to promote the “talkies.” Although the film was mostly silent, there were bytes of sound that surrounded Valentin when his career as a silent film actor was coming to an end. This symbolized Valentin’s world being taken over by sound as his silent world is slowly coming to an end.
A final nod to “The Artist’s” canine star, Uggie, who played Valentin’s trusty dog sidekick and the star in many of Valentin’s movies. Uggie won the “Top Dog in A Movie” award at the first Golden Collar Awards last week. Uggie is a Jack Russel Terrier who won the hearts of millions in his adorable performance in “The Artist,” as he saved Valentin from a tragic ending, proving once again that a dog is man’s best friend.
“The Artist” is nominated for 10 Oscars this year, including Best Picture. The 84th Academy Awards air on Sunday, Feb. 26th on ABC.
Angela Thomas is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.