Friday, 21 June 2013

The Artist (4 Stars)

This is a beautiful film. Maybe four stars isn't enough, but at the moment I'm trying to save five star ratings for my absolute favorite films. In 2012 it won five Academy Awards, including the Oscar for best film. It's easy to see why. It's a very stylish homage to the days of silent movies. It isn't just filmed without sound, it retains the characteristics of silent films. The only thing done wrong is that after the final scene we should see the words "The End" and fade out. The five minutes of rolling credits were out of place. Silent films never did that.

The film is either a French or an American film, depending on where you live. In America it's called an American film made by a French director. In France it's called a French film made in Hollywood. That figures. We need someone from a neutral third country to decide what it really is. On the Internet it's referred to as an American film, but that's because America owns the Internet, as we all know.

The story is suitable for the film type, or maybe I should say that the film type is suitable for the story. It's a silent movie about silent movies, or rather about the death of silent movies. It starts in 1927 with the silent movie star George Valentin at the peak of his career. He helps a young starlet, Peppy Miller, get a job at Kinograph Studios, where he works. In 1929 the first movies with sound are made, talkies. George says talking movies are stupid, so he invests all his money in a self-directed silent movie that flops. Peppy embraces the sound era and becomes a major Hollwood star. The fortunes are reversed. Peppy offers George help, but he's too proud to accept it.

I have a few silent movies in my DVD collection. "Birth of a Nation" (1915) is an important milestone in film history that all true film fans should own. "Nosferatu" (1922) is also a classic. I also own a few of Alfred Hitchcock's silent movies, notably "The Farmer's Wife" (1928), "The Manxman" (1929) and "Blackmail" (1929). And of course, the very first film that I reviewed in this blog was "Metropolis" (1927). I have no regrets that today's films use sound, but I can understand the allure of silent movies. They were an art form in themselves, and they demanded much more skill from the actors. Facial expressions and small gestures carried the scenes.

For those interested in the advent of talking movies, another film that deals with the same subject, though from a different perspective, is Bernhard Sinkel's "Kinoerzähler".

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