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.