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The Artist (2011)
A breath of fresh vintage air

Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.

The Artist (2011)


I am spending a lot of recent time with my list of essential films, reviewing and enhancing it. Several readers have suggested this film for that list.

It has several characteristics that appeal. It is a movie about movies. It is made with movie-making explicit: the thing is black and white, silent, uses lenses and positions from the era (mostly). That era was before Hitchcock and Welles, so the camera has no curiosity. The sets include some that while they depict ‘real’ life, are clearly stage sets. The acting early in the film, in both the film itself and films within are exaggerated. This and some other effects add up to highly self-aware presentation. Because this is done competently, it becomes attractive to me.

Using French actors to portray remote Americans is rather brilliant. That they both are unattractive people who present attractively matters as well.

More. Within this context, some rather powerful dramatic effects are woven, the most impressive being a foreboding dream that imposes the inner world on the outer. The effect is repeated later, more weakly. But thrown in are some gratuitous and cheap tricks. His shadow walks away at one point. Miniature characters from one of his movies haunt him while drunk at a bar. They cross well over the silly line.

The frame is intended to overlap that of ‘Singin in the Rain’; and it really would have helped if they had made this more explicit in the middle, so that at the end we would have known where we came from.

But doggoneit, with all the power this filmmaker turned on, he went nowhere with it. We do have an acceptable enough love story, but it gives us nothing of love. In fact it is hard to know what is going on between these two, and rather than ambiguity we are forced into disbelief. The love of the chauffeur was more genuine — and strange since it comes from the stereotypical lawyer type.

This is worth watching because the machinery is powerful, but the machine doesn’t help us do anything with our lives. It should because it could.

Posted in 2012

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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