movie: The Artist

January 20, 2012

The Artist is the most talked about movie of the moment and I’m really pleased my lovely wife treated me to a trip to the cinema to see this at The Grosvenor (we even sprung for one of the couches which really are much more comfy than even the well spaced seats in that cinema).  The first thing anyone says about The Artist is that it is a silent movie filmed in black and white, which it has to be said is unusual.

However, was this going to simply be a gimmick or would there be a genuine movie worth watching no matter what format it is presented in.  Yes, it is a really good movie – a good story, visually captivating, engaging, well acted, funny and with high drama cliff hanging ending(s).

The story opens in 1927 with silent movie star George Valentin at the height of his career, he bumps into an unknown extra Peppy Miller and has a small scene with her.  When Valentin is shown the new development of sound he laughs it of making it clear that he will not be talking in a movie (his reasons are never actually explained until … [can’t say – spoilers]).  Soon, the studio moves to ‘all talkies’ with Peppy Miller the new rising starlet and Valentin out on his own.

What follows would indeed be too much of a spoiler, enough to say that while one is on the up the other is spiraling down and how can it possibly be resolved?

Of course this movie can’t be reviewed without talking about it being silent or rather talking about the use of sound.  [BTW this might be spoilers too, so if you are going to see it don’t read on]  Most of the film uses a musical score frequently used as it would have been with a silent film, occasionally a song, but twice we are given sound that matches the visuals.  The first time [really this is a spoiler don’t read unless you have seen it already]  …. is a  dream sequence where Foley sound is used but Valentin has no voice.  I thought this was fascinating as it sort of gently reminded you of the ‘normalcy’ of sound that as a viewer we had started to get used to not being there.  The scene isn’t too far into the movie so you are just setteling into the medium when suddenly there is audio that matches the action, which of course is ‘normal’ from real life and every other film you have ever seen, but in this context in this film it is out of place and therefore emphacises the lack of sound even more!

In summary, a really good movie, which should be seen in a cinema as really it will not be the same when viewed at home.  Also, there’s a really nice dog!