By Lisa Penza
In its well over 100 years, cinema has made leaps and bounds. From infancy in the early part of the 20th century to today, every decade has seen huge advancements. With everything available from CGI to Real 3D, who would have expected a silent film to be such a contender in 2012’s awards race? The Artist perfectly ties how far cinema has come with where it began and gives us a charming story perfectly told from start to finish – without a single word.
Since the birth of the talkie, silent films have become a lost art. But it’s incredible to look back on them today and see how they shaped cinema as a whole. The movement from silent to talkies, from black and white to color, from what was then to what is now is something I have always found fascinating. Seeing who and what will survive the big shake up in the industry, and where it will go next is an incredible journey. But taking the time to look back, as we so rarely do, is what makes how far we’ve come all the more exceptional.
Never a huge silent film buff, I came into this not knowing exactly what to expect. Being of a fine arts background, my main exposure to silent films has been the use of them by surrealists – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Salvador Dali’s Un Chein Andalou. I opened my mind and sat for this film which to date has gotten nothing but rave reviews.
The story of The Artist is the downfall of the silent film with the rise of the talkie, portrayed through the falling career of silent movie veteran George Valentin (a Rudolph Valentino/Douglas Fairbanks mash up played by Jean Dujardin) and up-and-coming talkie star Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Dujardin is flawless in his role as the falling star, and watching him go from studio sweetheart to washed up is a heartbreaking experience (heartily deserving of his Best Actor Academy Award). Equally incredible, Bejo plays Peppy as a Clara Bow-esque ‘It’ girl, the new flavor on the block who is taking the place of the fading Valentin after being awarded her career through his actions. The two together have amazing chemistry and the story really pulls you in to the point that the fact there is no spoken dialogue becomes meaningless. So much is said without a word uttered.
A truly beautiful story told in the most perfect way it could have been, The Artist deserves every bit of praise it’s received. With ten Academy Award nominations and five wins, including best picture (which I will admit I cheered loudly as soon as Tom Cruise announced it), this is THE movie to see. Not since the very first Academy Awards has a silent film won top honor (that having been Wings in 1929) and I can’t think of a film that inspired me more this year. If you haven’t yet, see it soon!