The Artist

Look at this man’s smile.

It’s mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him the whole movie, in the hopes that he’d crack that toothy grin again. And it happened just not often enough to leave me wanting more. Looks like I’ve got a new crush. Which is amazing, considering that the guy uttered two words, literally, during the entire movie. Jean Dujardin, you just might be the new Jon Hamm. (Good call, mom!)

The reason why he only said two words, of course, if you have not already heard and/or read about The Artist, is because the movie is silent. Like 1920’s silent. It’s awesome. It puts you in a state of quiet, cinematic bliss that you wish you could have experienced earlier in life. I mean, we all have the ability to find Modern Times or City Lights or any other Chaplin movie on Netflix, but The Artist is a silent movie for a new era. We get to see it in a theater like it’s meant to be seen, we get to see it with better production value and high-quality sound for the orchestral accompaniment and clearer images to make the stars sparkle and shine in all their black-and-white glory.

What a world that director and writer Michel Hazanavicius created for this movie. He managed to take all that we over-stimualted, 3D-obsessed, CGI-critical filmgoers of today know and love, and toss it away for a couple of hours, leaving only the pure elements of film left: Two lovely, charismatic people and the connection between them. Of course, others were involved in the telling of the story of George Valentin, silent movie star, and Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), up-and-coming talkie star. John Goodman, James Cromwell, Malcolm McDowell——all these great character actors added something extra and familiar to an otherwise very foreign big screen situation. But the real focus was on Dujardin and Bejo, humanizing the story of silent movies and talking movies and making us fall in love with them without saying anything. It was all very meta and all very fascinating. The chemistry between them was believable and charming without being overdone or hammy, the silent movie tendency of which the movie actually addressed. And the tale of Valentin’s fall from grace and (near) self-destruction made me think about how that transition must have been back in the day for other silent movie stars. How would you react if you found out the whole world had to hear your voice?

I hope everyone goes to see this movie. It requires a different kind of attention that perhaps we’re not used to. Dialogue allows us the occasional lapse in attention, but silent movies (like foreign films with subtitles) require more attention, more focus, more concentration. But shouldn’t we always be paying this much attention to movies, especially when they’re actually art? Entertainment is a passive medium but art is an active one, and The Artist is an active, engaging experience. It’s also a beautiful one. I predict a revival in silent movies… I just hope the imitators can keep up.

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