How disappointing. I hate when that happens. I was really looking forward to seeing The Artist. I had heard nothing but positive, glowing reviews and the thought of experiencing a NEW silent film was exciting. And with such a title I was expecting some cool, new approach to the era that is the foundation of the medium I love so much. Instead, I was given a story that has been told before–in more successful ways–and discovered that the title was misleading.
What follows is a breakdown of my thought process as I watched:
The lights go down and I am ready. I like the dog right away. Jean Dujardin is charming and seems to fit the time period. The intro is promising–could this be a behind the scene approach? That would be cool. Nope. Rather quickly it begins to follow a very familiar path. It has some cute moments and little laughs. Okay, I think I have seen this story before and it was better. I begin to think–A Star is Born, Singing in the Rain, Chaplin–and as the story progresses, I start getting worried. “That’s it?” Oh and by the way, the female lead, Berenice Bejo is a bit annoying. Not a good sign.
Then there is a brilliant moment. There is sound–in a creative, powerful way. I get excited. But, alas it was literally a dream. The narrative continues its familiar path. Now, I start to find issues with everything. Why so melodramatic? (And no–not ALL silent films were over acted!) Is this a comedy? Yes, it is but I am finding the serious parts funny too. Is this a love story? Then why are two leads barely on-screen together? Well damn! It has some cool visual gags–but they feel hollow and gimmicky. Deep sigh. I do not understand the critical acclaim. Really? It ends with the most awkward dance sequence ever and the use of the spoken words–which is contrary to what, I thought, was the point.
Now my observations:
If you are making a tribute to an era of filmmaking–make it as good or better than the films of that era. And when you have masterpieces like Metropolis, and films by Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, the bar has been set pretty high.
If you are making a tribute make it unique and creative. I can think of two modern films that used silence (to an extent) extremely well–Wall-E and There Will Be Blood. Both had over 20 minutes of “silence” and used it successfully and creatively. I want to see more like that–I want to see a NEW silent movie. Not a rehashing of old themes and over used clichés.
I know I am going against the entire industry with this one, but it happens every year–there is always a film that I just do not “get” all the enthusiasm–sadly, this year it is The Artist. It is not awful or bad–just not as impressive as I was expecting.
For your silent viewing pleasure: