The Reel Deal with Missy & Molly: ‘The Artist’: Dynamic or monochromatic?

Missy Katner

Lumen Assistant Editor


Molly Grosskreutz

A&E Editor

“The Artist,” directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is a mostly-silent, black and white film echoing pre-technicolor Hollywood. Around the Depression Era, George Valen­tin (Academy-Award winner Jean Dujardin), a hugely popular silent actor, struggles to adapt as Holly­wood’s transitions to pictures with dialogue and sound effects. Along the way, he crosses paths with Pep­py Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a beautiful up-and-coming actress.

MG: This is not your typical con­temporary movie by any stretch of the imagination. There is no color, minimal special effects…and hardly any sound.

MK: What a risk to take in making a modern silent movie. Since I’m the product of a fast-track, hi-tech gen­eration, I believed that I would find this movie—yes, I’ll say it—dull. I was also skeptical because it won the Oscar for Best Picture.

MG: The visual desaturation was immensely refreshing. I found my­self paying even closer attention to the imagery and few sounds. A bril­liant and unexpected reversal.

MK: I kind of adore “The Artist.” It is a completely unique experience to see this film at the theater. The story itself is admittedly not original (it bears many similarities to “A Star is Born”) but it’s the old-fashioned technical craft and charm of the movie that makes it stand out.

MG: Agreed. The casting of this film was excellent…just the right combi­nation of known and unknown ac­tors. I really appreciate that the two leads are relatively unknown actors. Dujardin is impeccably charming the entire time, his increasing di­shevelment evident by just one out-of-place lock of hair.

MK: Such an ominous lock of hair… Dujardin makes you feel deeply for his character without utilizing one of the major senses—sound. Mod­ern movies rely so heavily on it for characterization. As George Valen­tin watches his career and life slowly become obsolete, you, like his faith­ful little pup, stay by his side.

MG: I also found Bejo’s look to be quite distinctive. The only cast member who threw me was John Goodman.

MK: As you rush to the defense of Rachel McAdams, I will do the same for John Goodman. To me, his expressive face just feels right for a silent movie. Goodman’s isn’t the only recognizable face. The look of “The Artist” fools you into believ­ing it really was made in the 1920s until the shock of seeing familiar contemporary actors hidden in the background.

MG: I was impressed by how many allusions this movie made to past masterpieces. Certain blocking pat­terns and shot compositions seemed as though they were directly pulled from “Citizen Kane” and “Man with a Movie Camera.” These shots gave the film an air of credibility. I was happy to see that it served as a sort of homage to past films.

MK: The “I want to be alone” line made me laugh out loud. And the sound of my own laughter made me jump. That’s how convincing this movie is. The other great thing is the filmmakers were willing to push boundaries. Moments of self-aware­ness make the film feel like a blend of old and new. At one point, George drops a glass and it makes a clinking sound, surprising both George and me.

MG: Sometimes in order for things to move forward, it is important to reassess and reinterpret the past. That is just what this film does. Hopefully “The Artist” will be a re­minder of where we come from as a cinematic culture, and that there are plenty more things we can achieve.

MK: Once you get over the initial weirdness of a quiet theater (and are able to ignore the booms coming through the walls from a neighbor­ing one), it is a profoundly enjoyable experience.

Final Verdict:

MG: Thumbs up

MK: Thumbs up

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