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The Silence is Overbearing
The Artist is a silent black and white comedy about a silent movie star struggling to adjust to 'talkies' whilst watching the rise of a young actress he first set on the path to fame.

The silent style is wonderful with furious mugging, pantomime and clever intricate bits (like a fantastic bit where the lead and the love interest dance with a only the legs of the one visible. This is fantastic and easily the best part of the movie. Whilst I'm getting the praise out of the way the setting feels spot on and the actors really seem to be silent movie actors. There is a very funny dog.

If all this were true and nothing else, it would be a good fun movie with spirit, that people should talk about but don't.

However unfortunately, it's also silent and the silence does not work. Firstly it causes weaknesses in the plot, it feels like a starstruck fan girl is being picked by a mature actor looking for something newer and younger than his longstanding marriage. The plot is always thin which would be okay, the plot isn't important, but removing the voices means it lacks the subtlety to tell us the really important questions. Okay the girl likes him, but is she still going to like him when they've spent more than 5 minutes in each others company? This is a very negative view of the plot and isn't suggested by the film, but because no-one speaks it's left up to interpretation.

Equally other important questions are left unanswered. Throughout the film I was wondering if the star was refusing to work in talking films because of pride or his voice and when the answer came it felt like 'so what?' What's more at every point of the film, it's hard to settle because it's constantly thrown in your face that this is silent! Memento is a film the runs backwards through time, a gimmick that keeps the film interesting and reveals to us an important part of the condition of the main character. The Artist is the opposite of that, the silence can make it boring and since it was clear The Artist could have had silent charm _and_ voices it just reinforced the idea that the star should just suck it up and speak.

Chatter would have ruined the film, however a few carefully chosen words and background noise is better than having to read black cards. SingingInTheRain is what this film could have been if only they didn't deafen the charm with silence.
You seem to have a problem with silence qua silence. Let's not argue about this one in particular; I'd just like to say that there are silent films, decades of them, which make sense plotwise, characterwise, and otherwise. You don't need dialogue for there to be subtlety and a lack of lingering questions. There's this thing called showing, which isn't telling but still makes sense.
comment #12835 tublecane 16th Feb 12
Agreed. I feel that the silence was pretty good, and that the movie was still able to tell us a great story.
comment #12904 ryu238 19th Feb 12
Oh Ive got no problem with silent films. What the film failed to convince me was that there was an advantage to silent films. I don't really know that many silent films and I'm sure many of them didn't have the plot flaws that the Artist had, but the thing is, most of them were silent by necessity and the silence was a prominent feature of the film, just a method of delivery. This is SILENT, with silent puns and a big big emphasis on the silent, yet I think a few carefully placed words with the same style and charm it had already would have made a film that was worth seeing without GIMMICK, heck I think it would have made a film worth seeing even when silent films were the normish. Put it this way, lots and lots of Mr Bean skits and films are essentially silent but with those you watch them without even being aware that it's silent. You watch it because it's got charm, and when they need one or two words to help move things along, they use them.

@Ryu is it okay if you go into it more? The style of the film was great and so was the acting, but how did you feel the story was great? I guess thats a harsh question for me to ask because it's difficult to define a story, um I don't know, what was it you liked about it? Character depth? Fast moving plot? That sort of descriptor

comment #12911 Tomwithnonumbers 20th Feb 12 (edited by: Tomwithnonumbers)
"What the film failed to convince me was that there was an advantage to silent films"

Did it have to? I mean, obviously there must be some charm to them, otherwise why bother making another. I could argue it's more about nostalgia for the era itself, only part of which is tied to the unique charms of silence (of which, I agree with you, there isn't an infinity). Also that our sympathy for the main character's predicament is not a means to propagandize for silence. It ends with him succumbing to sound after all, doesn't it?

"a film that was worth seeing without GIMMICK"

I do agree it was a gimmick, if that's the word you want to use. They very much went out of their way to deliberately make a movie that was silent, which you'd have to since talkies have reigned for 80+ years. I for one don't have a problem with high concept movies, even when the concept is not absolutely justified by unflinching necessity.

It wouldn't have ruined the effect, no, had there been sound now and again. There actually was some sound, as you'll remember. But nevermind. You say there could or should have been more, and that's where we disagree. I thought it told the story perfectly well mostly without it.
comment #13381 tublecane 22nd Mar 12
The reason why the first point was important is because I went through most of the film on the assumption that Protagonist was avoiding talking films because of his principle, but the film wasn't convincing me that he was correct, instead it seemed to me that you could create films with words with the exact same style as a silent film.

The ending showed my assumption was wrong but I don't know how to feel about that, because the reason instead was a one-off joke and really weak. The joke was funny I guess and it does mean that one of my main complaints is logically flawed... but I don't know, replacing that flaw with 'film didn't establish central characters motivation until 95th minute of 100 minute film' ... doesn't seem to make it much better. I guess in my head I'd just decided to ignore why the film was saying he didn't do it
comment #13391 Tomwithnonumbers 22nd Mar 12 (edited by: Tomwithnonumbers)
"the film wasn't convincing me that he was correct"

This is an important point, and I might suggest you watch it again with the idea that the film isn't trying to do that at all. I had the feeling we were watching a decline and fall story, with the hero's tragic fall caused by his arrogant and self-defeating dedication to a dead form. Whatever justifications he offered I saw as mostly rationalization. Though his predicament remains sad because he presumably was a star for good reason, and whether he was just stubborn or somehow uniquely unfit for the new way, his fall was partly beyond his control.

Which is not to say, again, that the silent era had no charm, as the movie obviously heavily plays off nostalgia. Yet, it's more about the turning point between eras than an apology for the bygone.

"the reason instead was a one-off joke and really weak"

I couldn't disagree more about it being a joke, and advise against characterizing it as weak. Of course if it didn't move you I can't argue for its strength, but perhaps if you understood it less as a joke than a sad "awww" moment you'd reconsider. That was precisely my audience's reaction: a gentle awww. You find out that he wasn't just arrogant and self-defeating. There really were causes beyond his control, as the audience wouldn't be as willing to cheer a thick-accented foreigner as their star.

"but I don't know, replacing that flaw with 'film didn't establish central characters motivation until 95th minute of 100 minute film' ... doesn't seem to make it much better"

I don't know how I feel about twist endings in general, and it was misleading not to tell us his dilemma from the outset. Twist Ending is a giant, multi-subpage trope, for what it's worth. It worked, I'd say, nonetheless. Shed new light on the movie as a whole, and thickened the interest and import moreover, which is ideally what twists are for.

Not as effective as it could have been for me, since I already knew the actor was French. But the more I think about it, the more it enriches the drama. Knowing he wasn't just fighting anachronistic stubborness deepens to his character.

comment #13399 tublecane 22nd Mar 12
The thing is what I thought was 'wow he has an awesome voice, this would work out great' :D

If I see it again I'll try to watch it with your suggestion in mind and see how that works, but I guess I feel this isn't entirely my fault, I don't think I was being unreasonable with the film, maybe I was trying to metagame too much?

And I think it reinforces my feeling that the story was very very shallow because if you haven't even established that much until the end, there really isn't much more that you can be saying apart from 'it happened.' Like I said there wasn't much character in the wife or the love interest at the start that made that part feel uncomfortable and it still felt uncomfortable at the end because they had an interesting problem with the charity of the girl, but the film was too light put a lengthy resolution on it.

There was a lot to love about this film, not the homage from where I'm standing because well, I don't see much worth homaging :D and I never watched silent films so I don't have much investment in seeing one recreated. But the period itself was interesting and the charm of those films was worth recreating and homaging, which is where the film shone.

I think this is a popcorn film really. For all it's oscars it's a film where you meant to switch your mind off and go along with the fun. There wasn't a deep story but their didn't need to be. I guess I feel it would have been a better popcorn film if they'd dropped the pretentiousness of silence, because silence isn't so much of a switch your mind off thing
comment #13406 Tomwithnonumbers 23rd Mar 12
"I think this is a popcorn film really. For all it's oscars it's a film where you meant to switch your mind off and go along with the fun. There wasn't a deep story but their didn't need to be."

I see your point here, and perhaps overhype was a problem for you. There is something to be said for reserving the oscars for serious moves, or at least movies with a serious aspect. The Artist wasn't so light and superficial as you claim, but no, it wasn't deep. It didn't capture the human condition or teach us eternal lessons any more than did Top Gun.

I happen to think, though, that think popcorn films deserve recognition. Moviegoing is a popular medium. There's no way, for instance, Gandhi ought to beat out E.T.
comment #13433 tublecane 24th Mar 12
"I happen to think, though, that think popcorn films"

Ignore the second "think."
comment #13434 tublecane 24th Mar 12
I just found it boring though. I starting looking at my watch halfway through and I hardly ever do that, it was a bit embarrassing for me to be that disinterested in a film. It was a popcorn film that seemed to be needlessly silent, because silent is a statement or a homage or something not suited to what the rest was. I think I would have genuinely loved it otherwise because the style was something very lovely to watch that rarely gets seen. It might even have deserved it's oscars because it would have really known what it was and gone for it.

But I think you're right overhype was a problem I had with it
comment #13435 Tomwithnonumbers 25th Mar 12
"Equally other important questions are left unanswered. Throughout the film I was wondering if the star was refusing to work in talking films because of pride or his voice and when the answer came it felt like 'so what?'"

Talkies were originally regarded as a gimmick that would never catch on. And not unreasonably so - there were a lot of kinks to work out with the new technology and not all theaters were even equipped for sound.
comment #22301 nanshe 28th Nov 13
But that wasn't the reason right? He was avoiding it because of his [spoiler]accent[/spoiler], not because he thought it was a gimmick
comment #22304 tomwithnonumbers 29th Nov 13
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