Reflections on The Artist

Prompted by its recent Academy Award win for Best Picture, and the free movie ticket I got for donating blood earlier this week, I decided to go see the movie The Artist.

This French romantic-comedy-drama is set in the late 1920s/early 1930s Hollywood, and centers around silent film actor George Valentin. While Valentin is outside the theater one day posing for pictures, a young, adoring fan — Peppy Miller — drops her autograph book. When she scrambles to retrieve it, she accidentally pumps into Valentin, who makes the most of the situation while posing for pictures with her.

The pictures of the duo make front page of the local newspaper the next morning under the headline “Who’s That Girl?” Peppy takes the paper with her to the theater to audition for a role, and becomes an overnight sensation. It helps that she’s beautiful and can dance; I guess Hollywood casting hasn’t changed that much in the last 80 years.

While Peppy’s career rises, Valentin’s comes to an abrupt end after the advent of sound in film (aka “talkies). Valentin’s life spirals downward, he loses virtually everything, and becomes a suicidal drunk. Only his most faithful companion — a Jack Russell terrier — seems to care anymore about his existence.

One of the most interesting elements of the film is that it is a silent film. At first, I worried that there would be no noise in the theater at all, aside from the rustling of audience members’ popcorn bags. The musical score that accompanies the film is quite good, and occasional written dialogue flashes on the screen — just like in classic films.

Despite the lack of special effects and sensationalism that has become the norm of Hollywood of late, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s odd that I didn’t even seem to notice the film was in black-and-white until the last few minutes of the film.

Watching this film made me want to watch more pre-1930s films — films that were made back in the days when people dressed in tuxedos and formal gowns to go to the theater and full orchestras accompanied film releases.

Post in Comments: Have you seen The Artist, and if so, what did you think of it?

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One Response to Reflections on The Artist

  1. Gary says:

    You might want to try “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, especially if you are in the mood for delivering mail.

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