Back to a simpler time: The Artist doesn’t just remind you of a by-gone age, it takes you back to it

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo play George Valentin and Peppy Miller in the silent throwback to silent films, The Artist. The two struggle to negotiate the new Hollywood world of the “talkies,” and leave the audience wondering how they just spent 100 minutes without dialogue without noticing.

Cory Hope, Arts and Entertainment Editor  Ω

I will admit that I was skeptical when I heard that Hollywood was producing a silent film.

But when a film has a pedigree that includes John Goodman and Malcolm McDowell, it’s hard not to at least be intrigued.

I’m going to write this without spoilers, despite how much I want to tell you about this movie.

The Paramount Theatre was almost empty when I went to see this, which I thought didn’t bode very well.

It occurred to me that it might be the first time I had ever seen a movie in the theatre where it wouldn’t really bother me if people were talking.

It’s not like I would miss anything that anyone had to say, right?

But let’s talk expectations.

Or, more to the point, let’s talk about what I didn’t expect.

For one thing, I had no idea how true the creators of The Artist were going to be in sticking to the format of the original silent films.

The aspect ratio was certainly closer to the 4:3 than the 16:9 that we have become accustomed to, and my eyes took a few minutes to adjust to watching a virtually square image on the big screen.

I don’t think I had seen anything formatted in this way since I had last watched a Godzilla movie at the theatre when I was a kid.

And yes, it was done as a classic cinema piece even back then, and not as a first-run movie.

Another thing that took me a while to adjust to was the softer focus the entire movie was done in.

I cleaned my glasses three times before I asked my wife if something was wrong with me, or if the movie itself was out of focus.

It hadn’t occurred to me that they would film the entire movie in a softer focus to closer approximate the film quality of the 1920s.

They really went all out, paying attention to every detail.

At least as far as I was concerned they did.

I’m not exactly a historian, but it looked to me to be as true to the period as anything I’ve seen, and even if all I did was stare in awe at the cars, it would have been well worth the price of admission.

But there was more.

The acting in The Artist was far more physical, of course, than the average present-day film, out of necessity.

Exaggerated movements and dramatic music were used extensively where modern cinema would have placed much of the emphasis on the delivery of the lines.

The best part is, that was part of the plot of the movie.

The Artist takes place in the 1920s, when “talkies” began to emerge and replace silent movies.

Jean Dujardin stars as George Valentin, an action movie star who is having difficulty dealing with the transformation of cinema from silent films to “talkies.”

Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, is an actress Valentin helped discover, and as a younger player in cinema, Peppy embraces the change from silent film to talking cinema.

Is that too close to a spoiler?  I hope not, as I highly endorse you heading out to see this film.

When I thought about going to see this movie in the theatre, I was afraid that I would be bored senseless before an hour was up, and that by the end of it I would just be angry with myself for having sat through it.
But my fears were unfounded, as when it was time for the credits to roll on The Artist, I was baffled that it had been almost two hours since I sat down.

Without divulging spoilers or other information about The Artist I feel you would be better off finding out for yourself, I can’t go on, but I will tell you to go out and see The Artist for yourself.

A unique cinematic experience (in this day and age) such as this one shouldn’t be missed, and if I only had pockets deep enough to back it up, I’d offer you your money back if you didn’t leave this movie willing to see it again.