2011’s Best Picture the Artist: Delightful, Quirky, and Surprisingly Refreshing

Freshman year of college I took a quiz in my guided studies class entitled, “What language of love do you speak?”. The ‘languages of love’ included physical touch, words of affirmation, and one that involved receiving gifts. For me this was a no-brainer. My result was words of affirmation-meaning that I need my significant other to tell me how much they care for me. Words mean a lot to me, and I’ve always been this way. Language, and the action of physically speaking it, make the world go ’round.

Where exactly am I going with this?

Bottom line is, dialogue; in a film, in a play, in real life-is important to me. Which is why I was reluctant as to whether of not I’d enjoy the critically acclaimed silent picture “The Artist”.

But dialogue can be achieved through means other than speaking. And in this movie’s case, very effectively.

“The Artist” basically tells the story of a major silent movie star in the ’20’s and early ’30’s, George Valentin (masterfully played by Jean Dujardin), struggling to accept the change of style and technology in the film industry. In the beginning of the film, he has it all: fame, good looks and fortune. The only thing he lacks is a good marriage, mainly because he fails to communicate with his wife or “talk” to her about their problems as a couple (obviously foreshadowing and alluding to Valentin’s problems accepting the new talking revolution in Hollywood films). After one of Valentin’s shows, with the paparazzi and fans crowding all around him outside the theater, awkwardness ensues when an onlooker drops her pocketbook and accidentally bumps into him. When laughter breaks out, Peppy Miller realizes that she loves the spotlight and takes advantage of the situation by hamming it up for the cameras and giving Valentin a confident peck on the cheek.

Berenice Bejo portrays the outgoing, fun, adorable and quirky Miller who not-so-secretly cares deeply for Valentin. Miller quickly becomes Hollywood’s sweetheart, and as silent movies begin to be pushed aside in the film industry “talkies” start to steal the hearts of movie goers. Valentin, stubbornly refusing to make a talking picture, decides that he’s done with the studio that he was signed to.

I won’t spoil too much, but I will say that I was deeply moved and delighted by “The Artist”. Music is what truly tells the story throughout the film. The score, by Ludovic Bource, is absolute beautiful genius. The music is perfect for a film without any actual dialogue. That being said, the acting is also phenomenal. Every cast member plays their role extremely convincingly, saying their lines and making their expressions as if they are actually going to be heard by the public. Sure, the occasional typed dialogue that appears on the screen every few scenes certainly helps, but the music and the wonderful acting really stood out for me.

Although every actor in the film is exceptional, there was one that single-handedly stole every scene that he was in: Valentin’s pet dog, played by Uggie. I can guarantee that even the crankiest old man (trust me, there were plenty in my theater) will crack a grin at one of the canine’s adorable antics.

I was (obviously) very impressed with “The Artist”. Despite it being silent and in black and white (something that wouldn’t have been uncommon at all in the era that the film is set in) it was extremely refreshing. It’s so..simple, yet vastly creative and different from everything else that’s out in theaters. Everyone deserves to see this film, especially those who have never been exposed to this style of wonderful art. It’s ultimately a beautiful reflection and representation of old Hollywood that seems to have been lost so long ago in our present day films.

But, as Peppy Miller once says in the film, “Out with the old, in with the new. That’s life!”

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