The Academy Award-nominated film “The Artist” is playing at the Lyric Theatre this week. Although it has been months since its limited release, no theaters within a one-hundred mile radius of Blacksburg were playing it.
I decided to see “The Artist,” considering the heavy media attention it has received and because the Lyric is walking distance from campus. And I liked what I saw.
“Saw” is exactly what I mean. “The Artist” is a silent film. All dialogue is acted out by pantomime, and the film used title cards for more complex lines. When “The Artist” began, I felt as if I had been transported 80 years into the past — no 3D glasses, CGI effects or Channing Tatum, thank goodness.
I’ll be the first to admit my eyebrows rose when I read about this new movie that was supposed to be a homage to the silent era. A wordless black-and-white film? There’s a reason silent films died out. That’s not to say I disregard all silent films. There are plenty I enjoy and appreciate, but a silent film in 2012?
The saying, “It’s so crazy it just might work,” applies to this situation. Despite the film’s older ambiance, I thought it was truly great. Within the first 10 minutes of the opening credits, I forgot it was a silent film. The actors are phenomenal, as they are able to convey their feelings without overacting. It’s almost as if director Michel Hazanavicius pulled them out of some long-forgotten film reel sitting alone on a dusty shelf.
Just because “The Artist” is supposed to have the feel of an older movie, there are a few aspects setting it apart from its almost century-old counterparts.
The camera work and footage doesn’t look aged. Sometimes, old films have a grainy look to them. However, “The Artist” is quite clear.
Also, although a beautiful musical score accompanies most of the movie, a dream sequence features sounds of doors slamming and mirrors cracking. The sounds make sense in the context of the film and don’t take viewers out of the silent world reality.
The storyline was secondary to the tremendous acting and great cinematography. A charming silent movie star in 1927 sees his career deteriorate, as movies with sound, “talkies,” become the newest fad. It has a real “Singin’ In the Rain” (1952) feel to it.
The plot was entertaining but predictable. Spoilers aside, I think the parts I accurately predicted were written that way for a reason. The upbeat mood, even in scenes of melancholy, reminded me of a time when the magic of movies still enamored America and the rest of the world.
Today’s films, in general, have a cynical feel to them. However, the nostalgia of eras past topic is tackled in another film nominated for an Oscar this year — Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” — so I won’t elaborate on the subject.
Even though I used to hate any movie made before 1993 — watching “The Godfather” as a 13-year-old changed me forever — I highly recommend this movie. Don’t let the silent aspect scare you off. When a movie’s good, a movie’s good.
If a movie transports viewers into its world, making them care about and remember the characters, it’s worth seeing. And “The Artist” does this.
If you’re in the mood to take a trip to the movies, head to the Lyric and see “The Artist.” I guarantee it’s better than most films playing at the bigger theaters, and it’s cheaper. Forget the “talkies” for a day, and transport yourself back to Hollywoodland.