Silence is Golden
I made it a point to see the critically acclaimed film The Artist, directed by French man Michel Hazanavicius, right before watching the 84th Annual Academy Awards because it is one of the year’s high contenders in film. Before the Academy drew my attention towards the film, I knew it was going to be a rather unique experience considering that it is the first silent film released since the 1920’s. More than sixty years later, out of nowhere, a silent film re-appears onto the Hollywood scene and demands just as much (if not more) attention and praise than from the films of the 21st century. The film is a love letter to old Hollywood and an attempt to savor and honor the authenticity of classic cinema, which Hazanavicius has so beautifully executed.
The film’s protagonist is a fictional silent movie star of Hollywood in the 1920’s, George Valentin, who questions his unique talent once the arrival of talking pictures comes into the cinematic limelight. Before his fade into oblivion, he falls for Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. The entire film never fails to distract us from the core of the story: the romance between Peppy and George. The entire movie plays homage to the first two decades of cinema history with its chase scenes, over-the-top comical gestures, slapstick jokes, etc but, very quickly, we forget everything once Peppy and George are together on screen. Their romance defeated their rival barriers, for Peppy was a “talky” (an actress who became famous in talking pictures) and George a silent movie star whose career essentially fades away due to the “talkies”.
Jean Dujardin’s portrayal of George Valentin and Berenice Bejo’s portrayal of Peppy Miller is phenomenal; the evolution of their romance on screen never feels forced which is quite an accomplishment when we consider how over-the-top silent movie stars used to act. Dujardin’s communicative smile amazes and Bejo’s cute and optimistic attitude brought a fresh and modern feel to the film. The characters rob the film’s use of words by demonstrating their love through action which, surprisingly, is just as powerful as if it were a modern film that expresses such emotion through actual dialogue. Although the film supplies music throughout, it is a true astonishment to be able to sit through a film where the actors are voiceless in this day and age and feel completely inspired.
Filmmaking is about millions and millions of decisions and everyone involved in The Artist seems to be perfected. The first and last shots of the movie demonstrate the importance of the audience which the director cleverly did to substitute the lack of dialogue with the characters in the movie with your own internal dialogue with the director; approving or disapproving to yourself.
In spite of its rare appearance, The Artist has proved to be the most beloved movie of the year and probably of our time, proving and reminding us why we truly love the movies- for the unique experiences it gives us.