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Review: “The Artist” Trying To Go Where Only One Film Has Gone Before

We can see it now. “The Oscar for Best Picture goes to….(drum roll please)…”The Artist.” The crowd at the Academy Awards goes crazy while this reaction is shared in front of millions of television screens across the country: “What the hell is ‘The Artist? Have you seen it? No, have you? No. Isn’t it that silent movie? Who would want to watch a silent movie?” This reaction isn’t without reason and while we’re not ready to call this the Best Picture winner, it isn’t hard to fathom.

Fresh ideas are few and far between these days in Hollywood. Directors like Michael Bay and actors like Johnny Depp and Nicholas Cage continue to recycle the old and somehow try to make it look shiny and new. Fortunately for them, the movie going public hasn’t noticed yet. Still, they are doing nothing to forward the movie industry as a whole. Here’s a fresh thought. What better way to forward the world of film, than to reinvent a style that was last seen in the first half of the 20th Century?

“The Artist” is 2011′s take on a movie style that became obsolete during the 1930′s with the move into the “sound era” of film. Popular from the final years of the 19th Century, silent films featured actors acting without the use of words. There was music, often provided by a live orchestra, but the story itself was told through the actors movements, subtle lip reading and cuts to more lengthy passages of written words. Unless you are currently more than 80-years-old, you have probably never seen a silent movie. In theateres that is.

Now, in 2011, two Frenchmen and a beautiful girl from Argentina are paying homage to films original form. “The Artist” is genuine in every way. If you didn’t know it was created in 2011, you would think you were watching something straight out of 1927. Brought to life by French director Michel Hazanavicius, the movie is a screwball. It’s not a film that most American’s will see, and those that do will likely have mixed feelings. Furthermore, the story, easy to follow as it is, isn’t dictated by narrative from the friendly voice of George Clooney (see “The Descendants”). Instead, the audience is on their own. All of this will make this a tough sell at the theaters.

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo Steal The Show in "The Artist"

The two takeaways from this movie are French actor Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, who stems from Argentina. These two actors are simply brilliant. Having never seen a silent film, there was a level of skepticism. Within a few moments, that skepticism flew the coupe. Bringing you right into the story, there isn’t a moment that the two actors don’t string you along. Their performances are captivating as they tell their story without the use of words. Both are nominated for Academy Awards and will be big underdogs because of stiff competition.

It’s tough for us to tell you to see this movie. Being silent, it relies on an amazing original score by Ludovic Bource, another man of French descent. If you love the medium of film as a way to tell a story then you’ll love “The Artist.” If you fancy yourself a big fan of 3-D and explosions then you’re probably better off in a different theater.

The Golden Globes have already recognized it as the top Motion Picture in the Comedy or Musical category and it is one of nine movies that has been nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars. Time will tell what type of reaction mass audiences will have for a silent film as it looks to become just the second of its kind to take home Best Picture at the Oscars. For our money, this might have been the best movie of the past year.

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