Oscars honours a silent contender and a truly outstanding film
by Nikita Shah
Watching The Artist really opened my eyes to the actual art of film—how different ideas can be reflected in not just the story that is told but how it is told. I found when the movie began, my mind was resisting the change from “talkies” to a silent film, much like the resistance George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) felt towards the Hollywood move in the opposite direction in the late 1920s. The film, whose plot revolves around the transition from silent pictures into talkies, puts the audience in a similar position of treading in unfamiliar waters. Each person watching The Artist decides whether or not they will care to adapt to this change. Some are able to ride the cinematic wave while others stand firm that a film should include speaking (and perhaps ask the theatre for their money back). Herein lays the dilemma of The Artist.
The film did require an adjustment in understanding the story since it is being portrayed only by movement and facial expression with intermittent words on screen. Despite being thrown back in time to watch a film unlike any I’ve seen before, this movie was thoroughly enjoyable. The switch in era was so spot on. I could have sworn I was watching an actual film from 1927. Having been unfamiliar with the majority of the cast, John Goodman was the only anachronistic giveaway that the film was indeed modern.
The acting was flawless, including the dog that absolutely deserves that Golden Globe. Bérénice Bejo was incredibly charming as the up-and-coming actress Peppy Miller—particularly during the dressing room jacket scene. And, of course, Jean Dujardin lives up to all of the acclaim he is receiving over the role. The film painted an honest picture of the film industry during one of its most iconic and drastic revolutions, showing how those who went along with the change would prosper and those who did not would wither.
Of all the movies up for Best Picture this year, The Artist has raked in the most warm-up prizes and falls behind only Hugo for the most nominations (10 to Hugo’s 11). The last and only time a silent film has won the top prize was Wings in 1927, the year in which The Artist’s story takes off. What this film lacks in colour, voice, and modern special effects, it more than makes up for with art and heart.