Daily Archives: November 23, 2011

My Next Must-See: The Artist

I spotted the one-sheet for a new film called The Artist a couple weeks ago, but while I thought it was striking and classy — a wonderfully refreshing change from the Photoshopped headshot montages that comprise the vast majority of movie posters these days — it gave me absolutely no idea what the movie was actually about. Now I know… and I love it, at least as a concept. The Artist is a silent movie. Yes, a silent… as in “no audible dialogue” and only occasional intertitles instead of subtitles. Just like the ones made up until 1927 or thereabouts. And it was even shot in black and white. Here’s the trailer:

Looks good, doesn’t it? Beautiful cinematography and mood. The music is anachronistic, of course — Louis Prima didn’t record the first version of “Sing Sing Sing” until 1936, almost ten years after The Jazz Singer effectively ended the silent period — but otherwise this thing looks about as authentic as you can get, short of throwing in a little simulated nitrate decomposition. The dog even resembles Asta, the canine costar of the Thin Man series from the ’30s and ’40s. But it’s not just the retro gimmick that’s grabbed my attention; the story intrigues me as well. The movie is about a silent film star whose career and life is about to dissolve due to that new innovation, talking pictures. Simultaneously, the pretty extra he helped discover is becoming a Big Deal. Yes, it’s the same premise as A Star Is Born, but that’s okay.

Although The Artist was shot in Los Angeles using many locations authentic to the silent age, and using several American actors — you may have noticed John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Penelope Ann Miller in the trailer — this is technically a French movie, the brainchild of a gutsy man named Michel Hazanavicius. And you know, that doesn’t really surprise me, considering how utterly risk-averse Hollywood has become in the last 20 years. No American film studio would take a chance on an insane project like a modern-day silent; they prefer sure-things like remakes and sequels. Ever since my college days, I’ve been defending Hollywood movies to the film-snob, subtitle-loving, popularity-hating people I occasionally run across in my social circles, but just lately… Well, it says something interesting that the coming-soon attractions that have most excited me the past couple years this, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, and Space Battleship Yamato — have all been foreign films. But then the movies I really love tend to be made by people who love movies, and, as far as I can tell, Hollywood is run these days by people who love brands