I was inclined to write this review in intertitles, but I’ve settled for the contemporary equivalent – the blog post – text displayed on a screen in between action. If you know nothing of film history, a double-bill of The Artist and Hugo will take you up the beginning of talking pictures. For enrichment add Singin’ in the Rain, although you may feel a modicum of deja vu if you watch it following The Artist.
The Artist has been on my no-brainer list of films to watch with the Octogenarian. She was 5 in 1927, when the film opens. She should have felt a sense of nostalgia. I have pictures of her father wearing similar suits as those warn by George Valentin. The dialogue is limited to about 10 words. She can’t hear very well. There are intertitles, but she had difficulty reading them. Five minutes into the film and the perfect film became “This is an award-winning film?” Questioned in complete disgust and sarcasm. She snored through the rest of it, waking only to dis it once again as the credits rolled.
I nodded off time and again. I never cottoned on to silent films, even when I was in my most pretentious “film student” phase. The excessive eyeliner on the helpless females tied to the tracks did nothing for me. Slapstick comedy embarrassed me. The jerky movements of Douglas Fairbanks swinging from the roof top to the wall in too few frames per second irked me. None of those pet peeves were replicated in The Artist. The swing from the roof to the wall was filmed at exactly the right frames per second.
I didn’t miss colour. I was raised on black and white television. The grey scale is my friend. This film made the most of it, with subtle choices in costume and set design. Gorgeous.
To say this is a visual film may appear to be redundant. I let my comment stand, because every frame is rich with details that pay homage to great directors of the past, like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. The Artist is a many layered film missing only the emotional layer.