The Artist - Black & White Silent Film

…didn’t see a thread for this already…

The Artist - Black & white silent film made by a French director, set in the 1920’s and early 30’s Hollywood, nominally about the transition from silent films to “talkies” and how it affects the main characters, comedy/drama. It’s on a number or “best of” lists and has won a few Best Film of the Year awards. Expect to see Oscar attention.

It really is a curio, an attempt to make a perfect recreation of a silent film from the era (with a few scenes as notable exceptions). The black & white cinematography is exquisite, the period costumes are perfect, the period art direction is absolutely impeccable. It was a lot of fun seeing historical parts of Los Angeles and studio backlots used in the film.

The acting was interesting - they were trying to capture the style of the silent film performances of the time, particularly of light comedy, so it was very different than what we see today. It helps that the lead actors are virtually unknown to US audiences. Although, I can’t help but think that an American filmmaker would have cast differently for the lead actress (Bérénice Bejo) - she didn’t really fit the 20’s / 30’s starlet look for me. She looked like a flapper, but not a Hollywood starlet - they were usually a bit more “kewpie” back then. The lead actor (Jean Dujardin)was very well cast.

All in all it was extremely well made, I enjoyed it on an intellectual level, as an exercise, but I would find it difficult to recommend to most people who are not film buffs.

Needless to say, I am over the moon about it, as it is essentially John Gilbert’s story and is bringing him back into the public mind . . . In fact, I am on the horn to the star’s and director’s PR people to see if I can ride their coattails . . .

Actually, that was my only quibble–they have women wearing late-1920s flapper clothes (short skirts, cloche hats) from 1926 right up through 1932. But only obsessives like me would notice.

OK, at the risk of this turning into a costume nitpick, I retract the word “perfect”. You’re right about the flapper-wear not evolving. But I did appreciate the attention to period details on the men’s costumes.

Oh, minor quibble, I loved the film. I teared up a couple of times, esp. at the scene in his dressing room when Sound Intrudes–knowing what was in store for poor John Gilbert.

I’m dying to see this. Hoping it will play wide enough that it won’t be only at the art houses (i.e. Cedar-Lee).

I wouldn’t count on it - even in LA, on a weekend day, the theater was sparsely populated.

The Angelika in Soho was packed, but there *is *an extra big artsy-fartsy crown in Soho.

As I’ve said in other threads, they’ve been positioning The Artist for Awards season since Cannes in May. It’s played film festivals and is in its qualifying run for Oscar consideration (films have to play at least one week in NY & LA before the end of the year to be nominated). It’ll be very slowly rolling out around the rest of the country over the next few weeks. Since it’s such a hard film to market the PTB are counting on awards attention to spread the word. Once it gets multiple nominations from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and finally, Oscars, it’ll be out there. Ideally they want the movie to still be playing in theaters around the time of the Oscars, at the end of February. This is the way to do it.

I can’t wait to see it myself. It looks fun and unique and moving, plus I’ve been a fan of Jean Dujardin for a few years now. Those who like him should seek out his “OSS” films where he plays a bumbling, insensitive agent who gets into all kinds of trouble. Think James Bond crossed with Inspector Clouseau (forgive my spelling, I’m typing w one finger on my iPhone at a McDonalds using their wifi) and others I can’t think ofnow. He’s suave and confident and self-centered and totally clueless. You want to slap him, often, but you kinda like him too. The actor pulls it off. I’m thrilled he’s getting attention. He’ll charm the pants off of all the entertainment reporters & voters once campaigning kicks into high gear.

I saw this over the weekend.

I have to say the middle 2/3 really dragged for me. It was all beautifully done, but most of the story has been done to death, sort of a cross between A Star is Born and Singing in the Rain. Every movie cliche in the book, including the loyal servant and the stupid blonde wife. I knew what was coming, every step of the way, until a few minutes before it ended.

Only the last 10 minutes were really compelling to me. Which, if there are only going to be 10 compelling minutes in a movie, it’s good to have them come at the end.

What I came away with, is that the whole point seemed to be why he refused to even make an attempt to talk in movies, and if that was answered in the last minute of the film,

because he has a heavy French accent, not because he was too proud to keep up with the times, he was afraid people would laugh or somethingthen he was an idiot.

But I did really like both of the leads, and the costume anachronisms did not bother me very much. It was charming, but not terribly creative.

I don’t think that was intended at all: Jean Dujardin is French. And foreign accents didn’t hurt Garbo, Dietrich, Chevalier, etc. I think it’s just that–as with many silent stars–they didn’t like talkies. It was new and scary and a whole new art form, and many of them loved acting in silents; it was a whole different genre. Clara Bow said that talkies were just no fun: learn your lines, hit your marks. No inspiration, no improvisation, no give and take with the director. I can easily see why Valentin would dread the coming of sound.

For me this is not an issue - just like seeing a Shakespeare play, or hearing a Classical Music concert, sure it’s all been done a thousand times, but I can still appreciate what this artist is doing with it right now.

Yes, I know the actor was French, I’m not a total idiot. But what else would be the point of having him say that one short sentence, “off camera” between takes in filming the new movie? Just to show that he can talk, but just didn’t want to? New process? Scary? Jeebus priest, that doesn’t make him less of an idiot in my mind. He’d rather drink himself into oblivion than try to talk?

Can you name any actual silent star who refused to even try talkies? Lots of folks have mentioned John Gilbert, but at least he did try.

Icarus, it’s a good point, but not one I appreciate in a movie that is supposed to be an original story, not a proven classic. They weren’t doing Hamlet, they were doing what turned out to be mostly a re-tread of other peoples’ work.

And I’ll say again that I think the movie was beautifully done. Except for about 75% of the script.

He tried and tried and tried, poor bastard, but too many cards were stacked against him. Cards? Well, whatever is stacked against one.

Connie Talmadge never made a talkie, nor Phyllis Haver . . . Charlie Chaplin fought them as long as he could . . . The Gishes went back to the stage after a brief try at them (both returned later to do character work) . . . Of course, Mabel Normand, Valentino and Barbara La Marr had the career wisdom to die just in time.

I talked to several silent performers who dreaded and resented the talkies, just as Valentin did in The Artist. They had worked for years to perfect their art, were having a great time and great success–and now this damn new technology comes along and says “you’re old hat, you’re doing it all wrong, you have to completely change–oh, and by the way, we are tearing up your contract.” I totally see where he was coming from.

I saw this today and just loved it. I felt for Valentin, feeling like the lifestyle he was familiar with was ending. I thought Peppy came across as funny, sweet and bubbly; (And they both did it without uttering a word!) and when it was over, the only word I could come up with to describe the movie was - delightful.

I’ve never been good at describing why I like or dislike movies… this one just made me feel good leaving the theater. :wink:

Saw it yesterday at a matinee, the place was about half full, pretty busy for the middle of the week in Denver! Anyway, it was mostly an older audience, and they loved it, although I got to hear every speech card read aloud. Nice movie, felt like I had seen it a million times before, but agreed with everyone else, it still leaves you with warm fuzzies even when not that invested.

However, there are some completely silent parts, and every time one happened something exploded from the movie next door. I would rent this one for that reason, or see it at a small artsy theatre. I won’t mind if the lead actor wins the Oscar, but much preferred Hugo for a movie about Old Hollywood.

I saw it a couple weeks ago, and absolutely loved it. Sure, the plot was familiar, but so what? The two leads had wonderful charisma, things moved right along, I teared up in a couple places, and it had a lovely ending. And tap-dancing. When’s the last time you saw tap-dancing in a movie?

Meh. Gimmicky. Tired plot (Singin’ in the Rain, anyone?), cliched sentimental characters, cutesy sanitized narrative (and fuck that cute little doggie). Waste of time.

Who the hell is “The Artist” supposed to be, anyway? The lead actor wasn’t my idea of an artist–he was a superficial trained seal, not a sensitive interpretive artist, and I don['t see other candidates for the role of “artist,” unless we’re talking about the specialty of “Bullshit Artist.”

What a load of hooey!!

Oh good, I get to be the villain. Every plot needs one. Here goes.

The Artist is the single best advertisement for sound movies ever made.

Want more? Here’s a bigger heresy. Tolstoy’s line, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” is the stupidest thing ever quoted from a major writer.

I was panting to see The Artist. It sounded wonderful. And for the first half hour or so, it was wonderful. It was filled with wit, and wit is one of the most delightful things to see on screen. And seeing was the word: since the film was silent you had to pay attention every second, but the simplicity of the action - the opposite of action films where everything is a blur of unimportant motion - meant that you could see all the bits and pieces that the camera focused on.

And then Valentin got fired and all the wit went out of the movie. For an hour - an interminable hour - he went downhill. Every scene was predictable; every scene dragged; every scene was an another invitation to kick this guy and tell him to shape up. I know Hollywood history possibly second best to Eve here. I know how true this all was. I also know how much I don’t want to spend an hour watching this in a comedy. Many people have made the comparison to Singing in the Rain. It’s a good comparison, since both are based on the same nonsense caricature of the silent era. But the downfall scenes in that movie are a minor fraction of the picture. And the wit doesn’t stop for a second during them. It even picks up during the wonderful “Moses Supposes” song.

There is one moment of Artist that compares: the dream sequence. When the sound of the glass clinking on the table rings out I could feel the entire theater sit bolt upright. That short sequence was a choreographed dance of bringing inanimate objects to life. If Chaplin, or better, Keaton, had seen that instead of The Jazz Singer in 1927 he would have kicked himself in the head (they were probably limber enough to do it, too) and rushed out to top it. (Synchronization may not have been up to it, but they would have found a way soon enough.)

Then, the deluge. He drinks, he mopes, he rolls his eyes, he sinks, he drinks, he sabotages himself. Every downfall sequence is all alike. It’s only every happy sequence that is happy in its own way. And it lasts for an hour. While we sit in the audience waiting for the magic to reappear. The tap dance number - sound! music! - is too little, too late. But again, the theater is electrified by the return of sound, talking, chatter, life! in the final seconds.

The other problems are minor in comparison, but significant. A great comment I read is that Valentin is the only character with an arc. The others have a sentence attached to them the first time on screen and remain stuck to it for every minute thereafter. John Goodman is an oversized Goy playing a tiny Jew. Bérénice Bejo has a lovely expressive face but her neck alone is longer than the bodies of all the silent stars and she’s twice as old as her character. I wouldn’t mind if Jean Dujardin wins the acting Oscar though.

The Artist will not bring back silent movies. It sticks an Oscar through their heart and writes them off as limited nostalgia.

The emperor has no clothes.