I don’t usually write about films here, but I wanted to comment on The Artist, which is like a breath of fresh air in today’s movie landscape. As you probably know, it’s a silent film based on the style of classic films from the early 20th Century. If you’ve seen the trailer or previews, you know that it’s about a silent film star who struggles to make the transition to talking pictures. It’s comedy, melodrama, and film history rolled into one visually stunning package.
Silent films have a unique visual language all their own. The director of The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, writes on the official website “As a director, a silent film makes you face your responsibilities. Everything is in the image, in the organization of the signals you’re sending to the audience. And it’s an emotional cinema, it’s sensational; the fact that there is no text brings you back to a basic way of telling a story that works only on the feelings you have created.”
In this way, silent films are a lot like picture books, where the images have to convey so much. And since the viewer has to interpret the images to understand the story, it’s a more internalized, intimate kind of storytelling than a film with audio.
But what makes this particular film appealing isn’t just the clever visual storytelling, it’s the story itself — about an artist, the fictional actor George Valentin, who falls down on his luck and must find his way back up again. The director states, “To me, it’s interesting to think of George’s story in terms of a human being in a transition period. The world is always moving, and you might be looking in another direction. One day, the world says to you, ‘you’re part of the past.’ It can happen in your own office, in your factory, in your relationship. It’s a feeling any person can understand.”
It’s rare for such a unique film as The Artist to receive such commercial success, and this in itself is worth cheering. It’s a great film if you’re a fan of classic cinema, silent films, or a good old-fashioned story. And if you happen to be an artist who feels a little bit discouraged with your life or career, well, it’s an inspiration.
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