The Artist was probably the most anticipated movie this year for me and similarly to The Tree of Life, it didn't live up to it's expectation. However, it didn't fall as low as Terrence Malik's work. Both films definitely deserve trailer of the year. When I first saw the trailer for The Artist I was blown away and thought that this will be a film that proves that contemporary audiences can still adapt to and enjoy silent films. I was half right. Michael Hazanavicius has made a daring silent movie in the digital age with no 3D visual extravaganza, however the motives of The Artist and lets say....Avatar are exactly the same. The audience are relying on the art of visual storytelling, and while Cameron invited us to see the future, Hazanavicius is inviting us to pay homage to the past.
For what it is, The Artist is good (hence the 3 macs), but it also proves (possibly intentionally) that modern audiences simply cannot adapt to the silent era again. I found myself frustrated at times, just aching to hear John Goodman's character's scream. The visual comedy was very good and it certainly helped move the story along easier, but I just really wanted to hear the characters voices. I accept that it is a very good experimental film, but I really could not adapt to watching silent movies on a regular basis. I think I would go insane.
The performances are excellent by both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, they really do have faces that can tell a story with amazing expressions and energy. They possibly have given the best performances this year. There are also certain aspects that are actually moving. The sequence where George's (Dujardin) own silent movie premiers to an almost empty theatre is truly sombre and portrays the difficulty for silent stars to transcend to sound pictures. George stands in the back swarmed by an aura of failure, while his protege/love interest Peggy Miller watches his character on screen sink into the sand, she is moved to tears as she recognizes that it represents his sinking career.
The incapability of George to adapt to the "talkies" reminded me of Bela Lugosi's struggle to secure other roles besides Dracula. Bela was also as proud of Dracula as George is about silent film, both so passionate about their work and recognizing it as art. Lugosi once said that Dracula is Shakespeare for him. So just like the Count, George's descent is sad to watch and Dujardin plays it superbly. A great example of George's fear of sound is when he dreams that he can't speak. We the audience for the first time can hear sound: a glass touching the table, girls laughing, typewriters. As I said before...a good experimental movie, can't take that away from it.
In conclusion, The Artist is a daring movie to make today and it succeeds in its own right through excellent performances, but it solidifies that the silent era is dead and not coming back. But we know this already, but if someone attempts to make another gimmick movie as good as this, I'm not going to see it. Another factor that pissed me off in this picture is the fact that they used Bernard Herrmann's piece from Hitchcock's Vertigo near the end of the film! How dare! Another recent movie to pay respect to old Hollywood is Scorsese's Hugo, which is a much better experience. He shoots a movies in 3D in order to tell a story set in 1930s Paris. This is a much more interesting approach.