Arts & CultureFilm & TV

10-time Oscar nominee ‘The Artist’ bring silence back to the talkies



@@http://theenvelope.latimes.com/awards/oscars/la-et-oscars-artist-20120125,0,[email protected]@Explosions! Gunfire! Noise! This movie has none of that. Okay, well maybe one explosion. And maybe a little, teeny tiny amount of noise — but that’s it.

What viewers can expect from this movie is a (mostly) silent film about silent films and about the dawn of the “talkies,”@@talkies is downstyle according to a quick google [email protected]@ featuring the occasional touch of audio for effect and an endearing charm produced largely from what you see, not from what you hear.

The story begins in 1927@@http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1655442/@@, when silent films are still in the height of their popularity. George Valentin@@imdb [email protected]@, young, successful and handsome, is a huge hit and the star of a number of his movie studio’s silent films. Contagiously cheerful, charming and a bit full of himself, Valentin has it all — the adoration of thousands of audience members, a huge house, a wife and a job that he loves. He even mentors a new up-and-coming actress, Peppy Miller@@[email protected]@, whom he immediately connects with and can’t seem to forget about.

But her career launches just as Valentin’s comes to a reluctant halt. Fast-forward two years to 1929. George is sad because he is being replaced by something new — the young and the talking. His movie studio halts production on silent movies and begins making “talkies” movies with audio synchronization. The story continues to touch on the life of the failing artist who refuses to take part in talking pictures and his continued relationship with Miller.

Composer Ludovic Bource @@http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20120116/ENTERTAINMENT/120116002/[email protected]@recently won the Golden Globe and received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score for this film, and one can see why. Like most silent films taking place when the movie is set, the story is backed by a lively, captivating score which features crashing cymbals and touches of strings. This music perfectly accentuates the comedic timing as well as other emotions throughout the scenes.

Equally impressive is both the lighting and directing of the film. Director Michel Hazanavicius@@http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0371890/@@ filmed with an affection for silent films of the past. The story is beautifully shot in black and white, featuring always a bright and radiant glow around the actors, as well as camera angles that communicate melancholy, panic, happiness and more. The lighting and the shadows express George’s sadness, his loneliness and his frustration in a way that is both beautiful and rarely seen in films today.

Supported by these techniques, the performances by Jean Dujardin (George Valentin) and Berenice Bejo (Peppy Miller)@@[email protected]@ are both spot on. Simply with their looks, hand gestures and body language, the two are winningly charismatic and perfectly clear in what they are thinking or feeling, just like silent film actors in the past. Dujardin in particular encapsulates characteristics of the silent film actors of the past with his gestures and careful facial expressions, at the same time giving a powerful performance even by today’s standards.

“The Artist” relies on looks, music and other things happening in the scenes — this movie is not going to spell everything out for you with dialogue. Dialogue cards are few and far between, but all one really needs is to be observant and know what to expect when sitting down to watch. It offers audiences an adoring look inside silent films of the past, and with its expertly synched score, ease of acting by Dujardin and Bejo and stylized lighting, this film is a charming and refreshing throwback to the magic of silent movies.

Grade: A


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