About a month ago I saw The Artist with a few friends. Two of them didn’t know what they were seeing (it was a free screening). As we ate pizza, waiting for the bus I said, “You know this is a black and white silent film right?” He laughed, “You’re kidding right?” He didn’t believe me until the film actually started. I thought this was pretty funny, but I honestly had no idea what I was going to think of this film. It had been getting amazing reviews, and it’s actually the front runner in the Oscar race, and I have to ask… seriously?
I think a lot of people will like it, maybe even love it. It was kind funny, and there was one brilliant scene I absolutely loved. My friends liked it a lot. I do think it has the potential to crossover to a more general movie audience. However, I personally feel like a lot of the love the film receives stems from nostalgia. We’re a culture that idolizes the past. At first I ate it up. I spent the beginning of the film with a smirk on my face, but when I thought the film was boring. There were funny parts, then boring parts, then funny parts, then boring parts. I felt like I was forcing the laughter out of myself. The Artist is a very good short film stretched to the longest 90 minutes of the year.
Some people may have loved seeing two people lipping words to each other with nothing but a score for 5 minutes at a time, but I did not. You may be thinking, “he just doesn’t like a movie without dialogue.” If you know me, you know this is not true in any way. I hate expository dialogue and love when a film moves the story forward through action. The problem is this just isn’t what’s happening when you have two characters looking at each other mouthing words for minutes with a dialogue card or two showing up. However, when The Artist chooses to really tell the story with image that’s when it’s funny and good. I just believe it constantly switches back and forth between this and the “talking scenes” (which accounts for the funny, boring, funny, boring dynamic).
I could have dealt with this better, but what I really missed was the sound of the world. I’m one of the people who believe sound is more important than image. A great sound can make a bad image look very good while a bad sound can make a great image worthless. Don’t get me wrong, the score was very well done. But I need more. SPOILER: I think it’s incredibly telling that by far the best scene used diegetic sound in a funny and clever way and the final dance number is powerful because of their breathing in the end. You can argue these scene works so well because there’s no sound until these moments (and you’re right) but it also reveals how much more power film has because of sound).
After all of this, I haven’t even mentioned the story. Honestly, outside of the context of a black and white silent film I think it’d be pretty cheesy. There’s a moment during the end of the film I couldn’t take seriously in any way (SPOILER: When he pulls out the gun END SPOILER). Also, I’m averse to films dealing with the harsh lives of the ultra rich when they don’t acknowledge they still have it better than the vast majority of the human race. At the end of the day the main actor was the most famous actor of a particular time and his house after his stardom faded looked better than 99% of the houses I’ve even stepped foot in.
It may seem like I didn’t like The Artist. That’s not true. I did like it. I just see an okay film where other people see a great film. Like I said, I thought The Artist was cute. A lot of people are using the word “charming.” I understand why the Oscar pundits are so big on it. There are a lot of older voters in the Academy, and their nostalgia will probably have an even bigger effect on them than other people. “It’s a love letter to silent cinema!” I don’t really agree with this… In my opinion, The Artist poorly apes silent film and has nothing to say about the world we live in. I’m sick of films being a love letter to nostalgia. Did everyone forget what Woody Allen was saying with Midnight in Paris this year? It wasn’t better than. Please stop making escapist films celebrating a different time and make films that say something about what’s important, our current lives.
Final Grade: C