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The Artist This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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It took some courage on Michel Hazanavicius' part to make “The Artist” in the style of an old-fashioned silent film. However, considering that this film is about the rise and fall of an aging silent movie star, this style gives the movie its sense of identity. Without that, “The Artist” would be a run-of-the-mill tragedy about a famous person's decline.

The film is easy to follow, not too long, and, considering how sad it is, maintains a playful, vaudevillian tone. It shows that a movie doesn't need sound to be convincing.

Hazanavicius captures every aspect of a silent movie – the use of black and white and dialogue cards – while Ludovic Bource's silent movie-esque instrumental soundtrack mirrors the mood and action perfectly. And a few small touches further the experience, like the slight overacting of the performances and parts of the film that are sped up.

The movie opens in 1927, with silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) at the top of his game. He and his producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) have made a number of successful movies, and he's going strong. He has a beautiful wife, a loyal audience and a big house; he's living in a dream world. However, all that changes with the birth of the Talkies (movies with dialogue). George is suddenly cast aside to make way for younger talent, including rising Hollywood starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who takes a liking to George.

All the actors look like they're having the time of their lives. Without sound, silent movie actors have to work hard to make themselves animated. With his black tuxedo and top hat, his pencil-thin mustache, slicked back hair and million-dollar smile, you can't take your eyes off Dujardin; his fluid movements are hypnotizing. Partnered with Bejo's charms, the two have some of the best screen chemistry of the year – and they do it without words. And as for George's faithful Jack Russell terrier (played by Uggie the dog), the scenes he and George share are some of the most memorable and touching in the film.

George thinks the whole idea of Talkies is silly and doesn't think they'll last. As he says (or rather, doesn't), “People come to see me. They don't need to see me speak.” He tries to make his own movie, which flops. Then his wife leaves him and he loses his house, but he still won't budge even though he's old news. George is stubborn, yes, but can you blame him? None of us likes change. But change is the future, and it will happen with or without George.

Though it is set in the silent movie era, “The Artist” is a contemporary film. Just as ­cinema was going through a revolution then, cinema is experiencing similar change now with the rising popularity of 3-D and digital film. But Hazanavicius isn't trying to preach by any means; this is a well-paced, compelling, and amusing story that keeps our attention. And the picture isn't totally against change, but (in the end) is about compromise.

The bottom line is that this movie is silent and in black and white. If you can't get beyond that, you won't enjoy it. Hopefully, audiences will see that Hazanavicius has crafted a rare movie that both reminds us of a magical time in cinema and reflects where we are today. These are the kinds of risks I like to see directors take, amidst all the CGI, 3-D, Spielberg-esque sentimentality, and Michael Bay-caliber explosions.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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callie15 said...
Feb. 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm
Great review! I really should go see it :)
 
ToothlessScottishGnome This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm
I just saw this movie, and it was awesome! I agree it wasn't for everyone, but as a person who loves old movies, it was great. I can see why it won so many awards
 
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