RogerBW's Blog

The Artist 31 January 2023

2011 drama, dir. Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo; IMDb / allmovie. George Valentin is a star of the silver screen, but the talkies are coming…

This is the kind of thing that happens when a director's previous film has made a lot of money: Hazanavicius' parodic additions to the OSS 117 series, originally straightforward sixties spy caper films, gave him a fair amount of creative freedom in terms of what to do next.

And what we get is a love letter not to specific films but to the idea of The Movies as a whole, reminding me at times of Cinema Paradiso (1988) in its attempts to convey the wonder of its chosen era of filmmaking, complete with its quirks and foibles and human failings.

The odd thing, though, is that… well, I've seen films from the 1920s. I've enjoyed them. I have plenty of time for the acting styles of Fairbanks and Pickford and Wray. And for most of its running time this could be just another of those films, pleasing enough, but not outstanding. Maybe I just have no soul. I suppose that the typical audience is not a weirdo like me who already knows and likes the pre-talkie, pre-Code, era of filmmaking, but rather someone to whom this is a new and strange thing that takes getting used to.

(Similarly I grew up with a small black-and-white television as the only set in the house, so I very easily adjust to monochrome video; I'm told that many young people today, having hardly ever seen any video that wasn't in colour, find it hard work to watch when they do meet it.)

There are a couple of excursions into sound, and in particular George's nightmare (in which sound and the sight of the things producing the sound become entirely disconnected) seems as though it might be using the conventions of the form to create something rather more experimental (much as Die Farbe (2010) is in black and white except for the actual Colour out of Space)… but it never goes anywhere.

Perhaps it's unreasonable of me to expect it to do so; I did enjoy this for what it is without needing it to be more. Perhaps it's just that when a film wins five Academy awards and is near-universally praised I expect to be amazing rather than pretty good. It's pretty good, and that's a lot better than many films.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

Tags: film reviews

See also:
Cinema Paradiso

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