Caution - spoilers and un-spoilers ahead.
Probably the most intriguing nominee for Best Picture this year is an unassuming import called "The Artist"
It tells the story of (fictional) silent film legend George Valentin and (equally fictional) bright new starlet Peppy Miller during the advent of 'talkies'. While Valentin stalwartly stands by silent film, Miller embraces the new medium, to very different results
What really sets this film apart from its competitors is that it's both black-and-white and silent. That's right folks: a silent film took the Golden Globe this year! Here's my review in three parts. Story This was the weak-point of the film. The story follows the expected talkie-takeover plot until you near the end of the film, when the two characters meet again (under circumstances I shan't reveal). Here though, the film takes a couple of odd twists and turns, and doesn't really end up where you'd expect it, especially with the googly-eyes the protagonists are making at each other in the poster (have I said to much?). Then again, it's kind of refreshing to watch a movie that doesn't just follow the standard expected endings. I'll give this film a B for story.
Craft This is where "The Artist" really takes the cake. It's been a while since I've been completely captivated by every moment of a film, and you might think a movie with no talking would put you to sleep, but here the silence electrifies the audience. I'd compare it to the idea that when one sense is taken away, the other senses take over. Since you can't hear the actors talk (and since you obviously can't taste, touch, or smell them), your eyes are drawn in as the only thing that can connect you to the story. The cinematography is outstanding, the actors are just the right amount of expressive without going overboard, and the black and white just made each scene delicious to watch.
The film isn't 100% silent, actually - there are two scenes where sound is present, and the first (a nightmare sequence) takes full advantage of the audience's malaise at the sudden introduction of sound. There is also at the very least one instance where they take advantage of the silent film title cards to play around with the audience. My friend put it best when she said, "it's been a long time since movies have been coy." For craft, the film gets an A+.
Costume The story covers the years 1927-1932, and though the costumes are beautiful, for the most part one fails to see the gradual transition over the course of the film. This might be understandable for a character who gets hit by the Great Depression, but Peppy Miller's Hollywood wardrobe doesn't really change for the greater part of the film, even after the Stock Market crash.
The only costume I had real issue with was the uber-short fringed number pictured above and featured abundantly in the trailer. It was really short by 20s standards, even in pre-code Hollywood, that skirt would have raised eyebrows. Of course, if the script called for a Burlesque dancer or other such temptress then that would have been fine, but the scene they film in the movie is a sort of evening party. Basically the dress was pretty but just too short. Overall, I'd give the costumes a B.
Please, please, please see this film while it's still in theatres. I guarantee it will not be the same on home video. This is a cinema experience you do not want to pass up.
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They do make them like they used to.