47th Annual CIFF: The Artist
by Ruben R. Rosario
Closes the 47th Chicago International Film Festival on October 20th.
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Call it an homage to the silent era of cinema, call it a back to basics approach to filmmaking, but one thing is for certain: Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist is an absolute gem of a film. Jean Dujardin stars as George Valentin, a silent film sensation that wows audiences everywhere. During a premier of his latest film, A Russian Affair, Valentin bumps into a woman named Peppy Miller and accidentally makes her into a star. Shortly after, talkies start to make their way into Hollywood and Valentin is confronted by them and his sustainability as a silent film star. The Artist has a wonderful supporting cast with the likes of John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, and Malcolm McDowell as a few of the familiar faces of Hollywood.
Hazanavicius uses film history, just like he did with his films, to tell a very simple and yet magnificent story. The Artist’s presentation is what makes the film come off as so successful and could genuinely fool someone into thinking that it was actually made in the silent era. The aspect ratio is a full frame 4:3, has title cards, a wonderful score by Ludovic Bource, and is presented in black and white. With all of these elements in place, The Artist is able to elevate itself from other current cinema without bothering with loud explosions or tons of expository dialog. It is in this simplicity that makes The Artist such an enjoyable film.
There’s a great dream sequence that George Valentin has after his first encounter with talking pictures. Through the use of some great sound design, we are able to foresee George’s impending doom against the talkies. The final shot of the film is almost a grand statement to Hollywood itself by Hazanavicius. A crane shot pulls back on a film set to show all of the people and elements that go into making a movie. Cinema in the 1920’s was about characters that made us laugh, made us cry, and ultimately gave one an experience of seeing something in a theater. This is exactly what The Artist is, a cinematic experience that cannot be replicated by today’s Hollywood.
Michel Hazanavicius has done a fine job with The Artist and proves his abilities as great filmmaker. While one might see this film as ridiculous and absurd being a silent film in the sound era, The Artist uses all the elements of what makes a great film and places them on glorious display. If there’s a lesson to be learned by Hollywood from The Artist, it’s that you don’t need loud explosions or CGI to make a good film. All you need is a little history lesson and apply that to tell a story.
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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