Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Movie Review: The Artist


I don't even know what to say. I've only ever seen a couple black-and-white films(Citzen Kane and Double Indemnity), and have never seen a silent film. I wasn't at all sure what to expect, and was somewhat worried. Yeah, I knew that it was covered in awards, but there was a bit of fear that that was just critic snobbery.
It wasn't.
The Artist was an incredible film. The theater was almost empty - there were 6 of us in there total, and I was the only one under 50. Of course, it was 11:00 on a Tuesday, and the movie isn't exactly the type to attract the kids. It's been rolled out into theaters very slowly, and that 11:00 time was the only one not in a VIP theater. However, the silence in the theater was actually perfect - it let the movie dominate and let those truly silent moments (as a silent film can tend to have) really hold power.
Now, I'll try to keep spoilers free, but if you're super-worried skip to the Watch This If... at the end.

The Basics & Plot: The Artist is a black-and-white silent film made with modern film technology (minus the 3d, thank god). It centers around George Valentin, a French silent film actor (as in the character is an actor) in 1927. It follows his downfall as he refuses to leave silent film and enter the talkies, the new era of non-silent films. The co-star is Peppy Miller, a fan of Valentin's who, after a chance encounter with him personally, becomes an actress herself. She, on the other hand, is one of the first to embrace talking films. She becomes a star, hugely famous, while Valentin falls into obscurity. The story follows this storyline along and I don't want to descend into spoilers.
The plot is very good. It works perfectly to let that old-school feel come through, and has the whole range of emotions being expressed really well despite being unable to use sound. It's believable as well - none of the twists were contrived or unrealistic.

The Quality: Rock solid. If I could see old movies in HD, I would. There are a lot of clever, cool-looking shots, the costumes are all outstanding (I read an interview with the guy, who's done work on numerous other amazing films, and he talked about how it's especially hard to costume for films like this since a lot of the time, you rely upon color to give impacts, emotions, effects, and such, and without color to rely on you need to make really expressively impactful costumes to convey the feel you need), and the fonts on the text cards was surprisingly nice. The actors all knew exactly what they were doing to communicate through silence, which was amazing since I don't believe any of them had ever done it before, and I don't think the director had either. Amazing stuff.

The Music: Always felt at ease with the film. It lined up just right, sometimes even syncing to footsteps. It was strong and creeping/scary at times when it needed to be, and other times was very light and fun.

Some scenes of note: This section contains SPOILERS, skip to the Watch This If... after this if you like.
The Nightmare: This scene had sound. Holy cow. It was sound in a silent world, and he was the only one who couldn't speak. It did a great job of communicating his fear of the world starting to talk around him, and since the sound was only used in this scene and at the end, it was exceptionally powerful.
The Gun: Yeah. This was very good. Super-tense, you could believe it was happening, and Peppy's driving also delivered that tension. The BANG titlecard was perfectly placed. That moment of sheer terror for Valentin, and then oh, it was Peppy. It got out of the tension very well too. The dog falling over was the perfect touch of humor to lighten the mood, and the way it had been done before made it not feel like a cheap laugh but instead like, "well of course that would happen."
The Dance: The one at the beginning where he's doing the back-and-forth with Peppy where they can't see each other, not the one at the end. It just had that fun feeling, and the choreography was amazing.
In Front of the Crowd: At the very beginning, where he's grandstanding. Just hilarious, especially with the wife. Freaking egomaniac.


I'll be honest, this is a hard review. Reviews are supposed to point out the good AND the bad, and, well, I can't think of any bad. I'd like to have seen a better conclusion to the wife thing, and that's the only thing I can think of.
This movie is pretty much flawless. Is it for everyone? Not quite. Nearly everyone? Hell yes.

Watch This Movie If: You like humor, drama, or tension. If you like old-school B&W movies, silent films, or just want a good time.
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: A mindless action film. If you don't expect that you should be fine.
Score and Grade: 10/10, A+.

If you have the chance, go see this movie.

In other news, RPG group is meeting tomorrow for Dungeon World! So freaking excited. Also I'm buying tickets to Go Play NW (and indie tabletop RPG convention in Seattle) tonight! First con ever. That's at the end of June though. Also, going to see John Carter on the weekend, so another review'll be by soon.

End Recording,

No comments :

Post a Comment