Ninety-nine percent of The Artist is silent. While there are some sounds heard for dramatic purpose, silence is what this movie is about, along with the end of the silent film era from 1927 to the early ‘30s.
This is one brilliant piece of film making. Beautifully crafted in small screen format and shot in black and white it seems to gleam off the screen. Due to its lack of sound, it relies heavily on the orchestral score by Ludovic Bource. Scoring a film that requires the music to accurately present all of what’s happening is a tough challenge. If you go back to the ‘30s take a look at Gone With the Wind and although there is plenty of sound, Max Steiner, the composer, virtually has music going from end to end. Contrast this with films which have limited score, like Patton. Like GWTW Patton was an epic film. Jerry Goldsmith’s 36 minutes of music, judiciously edited and placed, are far more effective than the constant orchestra everywhere at all times in GWTW. And I like Max’s music.
In TA, Ludovic Bource has provided an almost perfect “silent” film music experience using an orchestra. It’s a delight throughout and seems to be influenced by the John Morris score for the Mel Brooks comedy from 1976, aptly titled Silent Movie. In TA other songs of the time are used, and for some reason Bource’s music is put aside in at least one scene where the Bernard Herrmann’s love theme from Vertigo (1958) is used.
The story by writer director Michael Hazanavicius is clever, clever, clever. It tells the story of George Valentin, a swashbuckling silent movie star whose career is fading as the sound era begins. His story is sad, funny and touching. The movie we see uses all of the silent era tricks and adds a lot more I’ve never witnessed to make the story pop off the screen. No computer generated images needed. Just the smart and clever vision of a good director.
The two main roles are acted by Jean Dujardin as GV and Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller, the up and coming female super star. A great supporting cast including vet actor John Goodman as the studio chief, James Cromwell as the chauffeur (appearing in what looks like the same chauffeur costume he wore in Murder by Death from 1976) and others are on screen. Many of the Hollywood scenes are shot at famous spots like The Million Dollar Theater on Broadway in downtown LA and in Mary Pickford’s house and bedroom in Hollywood.
I highly recommend The Artist especially to movie fans. Also check out the Mel Brooks film Silent Movie and the Peter Bogdanovich homage to the early days of film making also from 1976 called Nickelodeon.
Rated 4.0 out of 4.0 reasons to silence you cell phone before the silent film begins.