The Artist

As an (almost) silent movie, this invites comparison with any other attempts since 1930 to make such a thing. So far only Silent Movie (Mel Brooks, 1976) springs to mind. In that one, the most famous mime in the world, Marcel Marceau, says one word, at the end of the film. I think it's 'non' - not that it matters. Similarly, in this end, right at the end, Jean Dujardin says (in English), 'Wiz pleasure', revealing through his accent, that he, like Marceau, and like the film itself, is French. But whereas Brooks's movie pays homage to the great comic gags of the silent era, this one is more interested in with those with adventure, glamour, dancing, and leading ladies.

I knew nothing about the film, and I thought it might be going to go into fantasy in the scene where George Valentin finds that he can hear the sounds of the environment but not that of his own voice ... and then he wakes up. It's merely an anxiety dream about the coming of sound to the movies. This is usually thought of as happening in 1927, the year when this film is set, with The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland) starring Al Jolson ('You ain't heard nothin' yet!). Comparison again: in Silent Movie the sfx are heard by the audience, but not the voices of the actors.

However, that leaves an unexplained moment later when Valentin is listening to a cop speaking, and the camera goes into an extreme closeup of his mouth, more than once, and not briefly. This looked like another surreal moment, but I couldn't see how it related to anything else. It was unclear whether Valentin could hear or speak, in the fiction.

The other film which this one calls to mind is another about the coming of sound, Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1952) - also about stars of the silent cinema who have to accommodate another sense. Kelly's film was not nominated for Best Picture in the year (1953) of The Greatest Show on Earth, High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, and The Quiet Man.

The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius, 2011)

Garry Gillard | New: 4 March, 2017 | Now: 5 March, 2017