The Reel Deal : “The Artist” Review

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by Seth Childers

Films have changed quite drastically since the days of black-and-white cameras and silent dialogue. Now they are in full color, shown in widescreen, equipped with surround sound, and are often converted into tacked-on 3D.

‘The Artist,’ on the other hand, takes on the daunting task of recreating the classic black-and-white style of filmmaking while also remaining a silent film with almost no dialogue and no sound. But this isn’t a forced attempt to bring nostalgia to us, nor is it a bad movie. In fact, it’s not even a good movie – it’s a masterfully executed movie that is unlike anything you’ve experienced or seen before, and one that everyone who has a passion for filmmaking should see.

The film starts off in 1927 with George Valentin, a famous silent-film movie star who befriends a woman named Peppy Miller, who aspires to become a dancer. Valentin’s career is perfect until suddenly the silent films are replaced with the “talkies,” films that have sound and dialogue. Valentin refuses to accept the new tradition and sticks to silent movies while Miller becomes an actress and becomes a sensation through her films that have sound. The story is a tale of tragedy as Valentin tries to regain his former glory.

The most interesting aspect of The Artist is that almost all of the “dialogue” is silent, and there are only text boxes that occasionally show up that display key important lines. This might be jarring for a minute or two, but it is so masterfully executed that not only will you be swept away by the unique storytelling, but it is also very easy to follow.

The story features two of the most well-developed leading characters I’ve seen in a long time. George Valentin is an amazing leading character and his tragic downfall is perfectly portrayed by Jean Dujardin. The rest of the supporting cast is also stellar as are the production designs. The 1920’s are perfectly captured and at some point I completely forgot I was looking at a recreation of an old city.

The art direction and costume design is right up there with Hugo as some of the best from 2011. The music is phenomenal, and almost single-handedly tells the story as much as the perfect facial expressions and subtleties in the movie.

There were some great films that came out in 2011, but The Artist is by far the best. This movie is more powerful than The Descendants and sails past Hugo with flying colors. (Even though it wasn’t filmed in color!)  It’s more gripping than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it doesn’t rely on shock value as so many movies predictably attempt to do these days.

 This is true emotion, perfect storytelling, and wonderful filmmaking wrapped up in one amazing movie. It is nothing short of a masterpiece that anybody who loves rich storytelling should see.

Rating: 10/10 (Superb)