The Artist ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
The Artist is an odd little movie. It’s as different from most other movies being made nowadays as a Remington manual typewriter is from a word processor. It’s in black and white, it’s silent (except for music and a few spoken lines of dialogue at the end), and it’s shot in 1.33:1 “Academy ratio,” just as in silent-film days, meaning that the image on the screen is slightly more from top to bottom than from side to side to maintain the look and feel of a silent film.
The story involves a fictional actor of the silent screen named George Valentin (played by French actor Jean Dujardin). He is a big star until silent movies become sound movies in the late 1920s. Because he refuses to embrace the new sound technology, his career is essentially over. Somewhere along the line, while he was still a success, he encounters an up-and-coming young actress named Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice Bejo). There is a spark between them but nothing happens and they go along their separate ways.
As Peppy Miller rises through the ranks and becomes a big star of sound films, George Valentin fades and is soon forgotten. His marriage crumbles. His money evaporates as quickly as his fame. He is never entirely alone, though; his terrier named Jack (in almost every scene) and his faithful manservant (James Cromwell) stick with him. Even more importantly, Peppy Miller has never forgotten him and is observing his downward spiral from afar. You know that, with Peppy Miller’s assistance, everything will turn out all right in the end. It is, after all, a comedy.
The Artist is not like anything I ever saw before. I had to keep reminding myself I was seeing a movie made in 2011, rather than one made in 1928. It’s not for everybody, of course, but if you like a different kind of movie-going experience, give it a try. It grows on you. You know you’ve just been dying to a see a retro, 1920s-style silent film in black and white, so climb on board the time machine and have a good time.
Copyright © 2012 by Allen Kopp