The Artist: Hot Movie of The Year

This film is burning a hole in my brain. Born of a cinematophile’s love of the medium, and executed by excellent pros of the genre, this film will sweep away the cobwebs of the mindset that has become blockbuster. We’re talking, of course, about “The Artist”, a seemingly innocuous film released to art houses across the country, on the QT. With it’s groundswell of support, and an audience that has seen the film and gone back for more, The Artist brings it’s point on home to the general public  now to a theatre near you. Touted in The Golden Globes, (Cannes had it’s day, too), and carrying home the prizes for Best Film (Musical) and Actor (in a Musical), The Artist will teach you what a movie is supposed to be.

The opening scenes include a raucous audience watching a performer on a vaudeville stage. We know this, from watching their mouths open and close, because, if you haven’t yet heard, this is a Silent Film. Yes! In our day and age of more is better, this film gives us the element of surprise via it’s black and white, silent approach to the art of movie making. The artist in question, althought some think it’s the dog that steals the entire film, is George Valentin, aka, Jean DuJardin, a heartthrob if there ever was one. He is shown at the pinnacle of his career, all Hollywood smiles and fawning fans proving his popularity. This is the story of a story. A movie within a movie. It’s very clear how it will progress: the downfall of a silent film star with the advent of the talkies, and the rise of a bright new starlet. Who just happens to be in love with the hero. And his dog. Said hero mimes his way throughout, with the expressive face of handsome Errol Flynn, the eyebrows of Charlie Chaplin, and the smooth of Cary Grant. What a joy to watch this man take over a screen! With it’s black and white glorious non-technicolor approach, the film is stripped to it’s innermost truth: watch the birdie. No horrific scenes of blood and gore to fascinate or terrify, no buildings blown up, no big screen pyrotechnics to overwhelm. Just a guy, his dog, and the girl who was meant to happen to him. What a story! Maudlin, trite, basic. Just what the world needs now. A little love from the era, too: set in the 1920’s, with cars galore, flappers flapping their beaded dresses, and leading men dusting their tails at every turn. The era of Hollywood’s rise to power is underscored by the charm and flow of this film. Our hero even taps his way into the hearts of America.

Sound does find it’s way into the film as a capitalizing effect. Once you’ve become used to the no-sound, the sound has it’s way with your attention: it grabs you and makes you so acutely aware of the lack of it that you don’t need the sound to carry the message of the movie.

And then, there’s the dog! As a trained- to -the -nth -degree type of performer, this little guy will win your hearts, as he saves the day in the film. From the school of Lassie, or Trigger, names near and dear to the hearts of animal lovers, and early televisionland, our terrier jumps, rolls, pulls, and insists his way into as many frames as he can manage. If W.C. Fields admonished actors never to appear in a scene with a dog, no one pays any attention to that dictum here.

Jean DuJardin will become our next hot dude, and Harvey Weinstein will be happy, all the way to the bank. In the bleak of winter, we have The Artist, to save us from our doldrums, cheer us through the economic realities, and re-ignite the spark that is in the core of film goers everywhere. Gotta love it!