Silence is Almost Golden
After another successful premiere silent movie star George Valentin exits to his adoring public and clamouring press when he bumps into young fan Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) who plants a kiss on his cheek which makes the front pages of the morning's rags. As it turns out Peppy, having auditioned at Kinograph, is a dancer on George's next movie and they share a moment before for George gives Peppy a beauty mark to make her stand out. That mark is the making of Peppy as her star rises but at the same time with the introduction of the talkies George's star goes into rapid decline as he loses everything believing that the talkies will never catch on.
Before watching "The Artist" I was a little wary and not because this was a silent movie about a silent movie star as I had watched several silent movies and enjoyed them. But I had never watched a silent movie which was over 30 minutes let alone one which came in at 100 minutes and wondered whether it would have the legs to carry it. Now there is no denying that "The Artist" is a beautiful movie but sadly my fears were proved right as once you hit the half way mark I found myself wanting something more and it was if the novelty had worn off by then.
Now part of that might actually have to be do with the storyline as here is a movie which nods to classic cinema with its tale of a silent movie star who finds his star in decline when the talkies arrive. I instantly thought of "Sunset Boulevard" and "Singin' in the Rain" as well as remembering certain scenes from the biopic "Chaplin" and whilst it is a good storyline that familiarity meant that whilst there were some surprises the outcome wasn't so much of a shock nor was the twist which is thrown in at the last minute. It sort of makes "The Artist" a movie not for movie fans and more for those who won't be familiar with the storyline and never watched a silent movie before.
As for that silent movie bit well it really goes hand in hand with the performances especially the performance of Jean Dujardin who looks like he has been transported from the 1920s to the present. Dujardin is simply fantastic and I found myself watching him and thinking well there is a bit of Chaplin but combined with later stars such as Gene Kelly and Tyrone Power. His ability to recreate the mannerisms of those actors from the past is unbelievable and he is matched by Berenice Bejo who brings so much vitality and bounce to her performance as Peppy, delivering those wide eyed open mouthed looks at the camera as if she had been doing them all her life. Their performances are very much aided by some bygone camera work which has that snappy edge as if it has been sped up ever so slightly.
What this all boils down to is that "The Artist" is a very good movie and I can understand why so many were wowed by this daring modern movie. But as a movie fan I found the familiarity of the storyline an issue because once the novelty of a silent movie about a silent movie star wore off it left me with nothing other than the wonderful antics of Uggie the talented dog.