When I first heard about the Artist and saw the trailer, I knew I had to see it. So I eagerly awaited the release date. By the time it launched in Germany, however, it seemed like the entire world had been engulfed by the quirky silent movies charm. And then it got nominated for every Oscar (and then some). So I groaned it off and decided I’d wait until the hype was over.
Then came the 29th of February, a dead day, a day that’s not supposed to exist. So I figured: now’s as good a time as any. Turned out that was a good call.
The Artist centers around George Valentin, ultra popular actor in the year 1927. He’s the hero of silent films and he knows it. Then one day, the talkies come along and things quickly take a turn for the worst. Valentin loses everything except for his stubbornness and his vanity and slowly descends in a nasty downwards spiral. Luckily, he’s got an unlikely ally: Peppy Miller, the queen of the talkies.
It’s a cute, typical tale with a few twists here and there. It’s the execution that nails it and turns it into an experience. If you know me, you know I love it when people in movies shut up. The Artist manages to find the refreshing pictures to tell its story. Scenes like Peppy in George’s dressing room or George’s talkie dream are so memorable it almost doesn’t matter what story the movie tells or what it builds around them.
And then there’s another, different, layer. A while ago, I had a fierce discussion among friends about bringing old genres back to life. Can you just make a silent film because you feel like it, or do you need to dig deeper and find a reason how said dead genre can contribute to the 21st century? In other words: do you want things fresh or would you rather stay at the roots; do you want to reflect on a genre or do you just want to entertain? We couldn’t figure it out.
When I started watching the Artist, I thought there should be more films like it. I could watch a silent film now and again. But the longer the story went on, the more I realized that this is the definite silent film. It falls entirely in the “modern reflection of” category: it takes the genre and immediately shows you how useless it is. For a silent film, The Artist does a very poor job at advertising its genre. It’s the silent movie to end all silent movies. The burial, so to say.
I loved The Artist. It struck the perfect mix between entertainment and art: I had a blast, I laughed and cried, was invested emotionally but was also struck at the aesthetic handwriting the movie delivered. It’s executed perfectly; every shot is an homage, every silence has a reason. Sure, you might argue that it’s everything you’d expect a modern silent film to be, but why is that a bad thing? The movie breaks every rule it should break, why go further just for the sake of it?