Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Artist

Let me reverse my usual pattern and start by saying that The Artist is easily the most overrated film of the past year. I think film critics are drawn to films about filmmaking, especially if a film seems innovative and if there are lots of references to classic films. There were two such films released at the end of 2011 (Hugo and The Artist) and I believe critics were unduly fond of these two films (however good they might be) because they are well-made innovative films about the silent film era (weird coincidence?).

In the case of The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius has actually made an old-fashioned black & white silent film. I love black & white films, so that’s not an issue for me, but having viewed about a dozen silent films, I can safely say that silent films are not my thing (though Metropolis is wonderful and some of the comedy classics from Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin are definitely entertaining). Partly this is because I particularly appreciate films full of well-written intelligent dialogue (though I confess there isn’t much dialogue in some of my favourite films of 2011), especially in the case of dramas. The Artist, though it contains lots of comedy, is primarily a drama (a classic love story, to be precise). By necessity, that love story has been simplified to accommodate the restricted dialogue of a silent film.

Having complained enough, let me hasten to add that The Artist is a masterful and magical simplified love story. French actor Jean Dujardin’s acting is exceptional in the lead role and amazingly well-suited to silence (even his accent is not an issue), and Berenice Bejo is perfect in the role of Peppy Miller. The cinematography is gorgeous. The mixed score, while occasionally too distracting (as it is in silent films in general), has a fair number of magical moments, especially near the end when the theme of Vertigo is woven in.

All in all, I was thoroughly entertained and entranced and give The Artist an easy ***+. But is The Artist worthy of all the acclaim and awards it has received (i.e. of being the best picture of 2011)? IMHO, it’s just a little too simplified to say yes.

1 comment:

  1. You will notice that Hugo and The Artist got the most Oscar nominations, which either proves my point or means I'm out to lunch. I thought both of these films were very good, but not good enough to get Best Picture (at least not this year).