Monday, February 27, 2012

Academy Award-Winning Paragraph Movie Review: The Artist

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

From just about every technical standpoint, The Artist is a masterpiece; really it has to be, as it needs to hold the attention of a 21st century audience with the film making techniques of nearly a century ago and absent of any spoken dialogue or color. A great, consistently moving score help to keep you engaged with a plot that could easily lose you otherwise. Meticulous cinematography and art direction contribute as well. Michel Hazanavicius and his crew deserve tremendous credit for putting every aspect of a movie that might get glossed over because they're covered by strong acting under the microscope and making sure to get as close to perfection with them as they can. Even stuff I wouldn't normally notice like the snappy costumes stood out. And the performances are there to boot, as Jean Dujardin brims with the charm of a born leading man whose expressive physical work, comedic chops and ability to pour his heart into his face is remarkable. Berenice Bejo is a notch or two below Dujardin, but that doesn't mean she's not fantastic (she is). The supporting cast is wisely packed with actors not out of place in the setting who do so much storytelling with the way they move, particularly John Goodman, but also Missi Pyle and even James Cromwell; Penelope Ann Miller is a bit of a weak link, but she's not a particularly important cog. Finally the story being conveyed--the fall of a lovable but vain silent film star railing against talking pictures and his love story with the woman symbolizing his replacement--is strong with much to say. My big knock against The Artist would be its lack of staying power, meaning now that I've seen all the tricks (and there were some great ones, from everything I outlined to the gradual introduction of sound and so on), I really have no desire to watch it again. I'm also not sure how much my attention would have been held had I seen it in the theater as opposed to with my friends at their apartment, with us able to commentate over the whole thing (which we did). But hey, there are far worse things that being a darn near flawless piece of cinema that you only want to see once, and that dog was adorable.

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