Monday, January 16, 2012
Silence is Golden... May be Named Oscar, too!
Sunday’s Golden Globe hat trick should send more folks to see “The Artist.” It’s not just the accolades–for Best Picture, Actor and score– but the exuberance the winners exuded. That very quality is at the heart of this unlikely commercial success.
Okay, it is mostly silent, in black and white and foreign, But Michel Hazanavicius “The Artist” is an elegant fanciful valentine to the movies. And while I can’t guarantee anything, I’m guessing, like mine, your heart will dance.
Set in Hollywood’s tender age,between 1927-1933, “The Artist” is about Hollywood’s transition from silent movies to talkies. It focuses on the relationship between the handsome, narcissistic George Valentin (the charming and oh, so expressive Jean Dujardin), a beloved movie star, and Peppy Miller (the lovely Bérénice Bejo),a young actress on a quest for stardom. The opening sequence takes place at the premiere of George’s latest adventure film, in which he appears with his scene stealing Jack Russell terrier and outrages his co-star as he takes a self-centered bow before greeting a gaggle of adoring fans on the sidewalk outside the theatre.
George and Peppy have a fleeting meet cute scene that will become significant later. She lands a small role in one of his films. They dance, fall in love and part before uttering their love. Just like in an old romantic movie.
Then sound crashes Hollywood’s party and the movie business is transformed. George confronts the crisis in a surrealistic comic sequence that follows him as he hears objects around him making noises. Passing girls chatter, a feather falls with a mighty explosion, but George remains silent, and, as he perceives himself, unspeakable. Like Chaplin he decides to buck the trend and continue making silent films, writing, directing and even financing his own work.
Hazanavicius borrows unapologetically from “A Star is Born,” showing George’s career in free fall and Peppy’s glamorous ascent. Vintage movie buffs will recognize glimpses of the ill-fated romance between silent film god John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, as well as homages to Douglas Fairbanks, Gene Kelly, and scenes from “Citizen Kane, ” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “ and "Vertigo”
Dujardin and Bejo deliver witty and wonderful performances, evocative of classic Hollywood romances. And James Cromwell, as George’s devoted chauffeur, and John Goodman as a gruff studio boss, add delightful support. Uggy, who plays George’s Jack Russell, and almost walked off with a Golden Globe himself, joins the ranks of Rin Tin Tin and Asta as classic canine companions.
An instant classic, “The Artist” will certainly make noise at the Oscars, too. But by then, you’ll know what the commotion is all about. Really, go see it. It’s apt to delight you more than any other movie in recent memory.
Drive safe. Play nice. Pass the popcorn.