Go See "The Artist"
Having dabbled in the 1920s with "Midnight In Paris", this movie will emerse you in this classic decade. The cars, the clothes, the hair... Director Michel Hazanavicius doesn't miss a single beat. Even the extras - every pedestrian and stagehand - has the classic familiarity of your grandparents' yearbook. Even the top name character actors filling in the cast as featured extras (Malcolm McDowell, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter). Stars Jean Dujardin (looking more, at times, like Gene Kelly) and Bérénice Bejo fit perfectly into this era. All in all, it’s like a lost reel straight from 1927.
I grew up going to the local Silent Film Festival every spring, so my hopes were high for "The Artist"; I can tell you, I was not disappointed. It wasn't a stylized homage (like, say, "Down With Love") or a technical exercise (Gus Van Sant's "Psycho"), this was a 20s period film all around. Like the indulgent "reality" of "Mad Men", "The Artist" is clouded with cigarette smoke, charmed with male chauvinism, and shamefully lacking real roles for minorities; and at the same time, full of G-rated romance and compelling melodrama.
Michel Hazanavicius takes full advantage to his film's lack of sound and dialogue, using title cards only when absolutely necessary. In fact, one slightly jarring moment comes when we hear Rose Murphy singing “Pennies from Heaven” over a montage. Slapstick and truly expressive acting are illuminated instead. This, frankly, has been sadly absent in movies lately. The most expressive performances coming from animated characters like Wall-E and Caesar (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”).
One of the compelling (and melancholy) aspects of the plot is the shift during the Great Depression from silent films to talkies. Though it is the undertow of the lead’s story, it simultaneously self-conscious, reminding us what a rare treat this movie really is.
Like I said, Go see “The Artist”! Take someone who truly loves cinema with you. Take your grandparents. This movie will transport you and remind you why we love movies so much.