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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

THE ARTIST

A NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

Before they had movies with sound or talkies, they had silent movies, and that's exactly what director Michel Hazanavicious has produced in his superb film, The Artist.

Centering on a silent screen star, George Valentine (Jean Dujardin), in 1926, the actor doesn't speak at all. We see him in out takes from his silent films, dancing and singing in personal appearances and rehearsals, but we never hear him or any of the actors, relying on intertitles to let us know what's going on.

Unfortunately, George doesn't transition to talkies. As others rise in the public's popularity, George is reduced to ruin, since he can't adapt. As a result he loses everything.

But this is a Hollywood movie and there has to be a happy ending. Earlier in the film Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a starlet wannabe accidentally bumps into George in a fateful collision of the up-and-coming future colliding with the popular present and soon to be past. George is kind to Peppy and helps her initially getting her work as an extra and then boosting her career. As a result, she has an unflagging interest in him and winds up coming to the rescue.

The film is a loving tribute to many of the existing film classics, and writer/director Hazanavicious borrows from some well known scenes.

The costumes are exquisite and although the film was initially shot by cinematographer Guillame Schiffman in color, it was converted to black and white monochrome in the
laboratory. Without spoken words, the emphasis is on the acting and the continuous score by Ludovic Bourse.

The intertitles are in English and although the stars are French, there are a number of well-known American actors in key roles.

Perhaps because it's such a loving tribute to silent films, The Artist has been on a continual swell of popularity. However, it's doubtful this means silent films are making a comeback.