Start a year with a new wonderful black and white silent movie!
Director: Michel Hazanavicius | Stars: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo
Budget: 12 million | Box office: 20 million
Watching The Artist is a next best thing to time travel. It‘s really bizarre and wonderful experience to sit in a multiplex next to digital 3D hall and watch a movie as if it was made almost a hundred years ago.
This years awards darling (Cannes, Independent Spirit Awards, various guild awards, six Golden Globe nominations) and probably a big contender for Oscars is a masterfully crafted tale about the end of a soundless Hollywoodland movie era and the sunset of that period main star. Although The Artist also shows the beginning of speech and sounds in film, the movie surprisingly remains silent. This shouldn’t spoil the pleasure of watching, as there are some nice surprises connected with silence and sounds.
The Artist shows a hate/love story between the famous silent movie actor George Valentin and an ordinary girl, who slowly but strongly becomes the main star and a symbol of new sound era. Unable and unwilling to cope with the new demand, George first tries to continue creating silent movies by himself and then succumbs to alcohol and almost madness. But as the old musicals goes, there’s always a happy ending.
It seems that The Artist and the name Michel Hazanavicius jumped to international attention out of nowhere, but the french director previously experimented with sixties style spy comedy movies OSS 117. With the same actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, Hazanavicius convincingly recreated the earlier era spy movie style, but at the same time it felt like a bit too much of a James Bond parody and not really original. With The Artist there are no such allusions, unless you are a big fan of silent movies and can spot exact references.
But in any case The Artist is sincere and beautiful movie, which can stand on it’s own and invite to a totally different and forgotten viewing experience. I’m not sure I would be glad if the movie won let’s say a main Oscar, as in that case it would add weight to skeptics, convinced that all the good movies are already created and there is no future for film art. But it’s really nice to see such unusual movie getting international attention and admiration.
Personally I’m especially glad to see Michel Hazanavicius name among the big lists. It’s so rare in a movie world to find a descendant from a small country of Lithuania and 2011 was really surprising for that. First it was a Russian actor with Lithuanian roots Sergey Puskepalis winning a Silver Berlin Bear as the best actor for How I Ended This Summer and now it’s a previously not well known outside of France director. Hope this success will inspire him to create more different style and era movies, letting us travel in time again.