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February 9, 2012 / magickittenblogs

The Artist – the film of 2012?

Mercredi d’Orange this week was The Artist. I was really looking forward this film after hearing glowing reviews, and was initially very disappointed that the local Odeon didn’t seem to be showing it. Luckily, after 10 Oscar nominations, they decided to screen something decent for once! My parents travelled to Cineworld Ipswich to see it, and provided one “it’s got so much heart” and one “meh, it’s all right” but I wasn’t put off.

Three words – I loved it.

The plot may not be anything revolutionary but that’s not the point of this film. It’s funny, touching and engaging – George Valentin is a celebrated silent film actor; he bumps into a fan, Peppy Miller, who becomes a rising star, while George’s fortunes slip the other way with the advent of talkies. I’m a massive fan of Singin’ In The Rain and enjoyed the parallels and contrasts between the two – I’m looking forward to being able to watch them in a double bill once the DVD is out (quite tempted to pre-order!). George (Jean Dujardin) has a definite look of Gene Kelly/matinee idol, and his female co-star in the opening scene bears a striking resemblance to Lena Lamont. But that’s all to the good – this whole film is about visual literacy, so any references like this aid our understanding and give context to the story.

The visual style of the whole piece is absolutely stunning; the costumes are wonderful, the cars, houses, decor… The fact it’s filmed in black and white enhances, rather than detracts from, the beauty of the filming. I especially enjoyed the use of camera angles in the dream/drunk sequences, which reminded me very much of Hitchcock and provided a really interesting contrast with the rest of the film. There were other lovely little tricks too – when the camera looks from a character’s point-of-view, an oval fuzzy frame appears around the picture, as if we’re literally looking out of their eyes. I also *loved* the scene on the stair case in the head office of the film studio, picking out George as all the other people hustle and bustle around him; it reminded me of something like Metropolis. Fantastic. The focus on characters’ facial expressions and reactions was wonderful too, allowing us to understand the tone of the conversation without ever needing to hear the words being spoken.

Oh yes – did I mention it’s a silent movie? Well, sort of, anyway. The soundtrack is fantastic – quirky and intelligent enough to set the tone and mood of every scene, but not intrusive, so that you find yourself immersed rather than listening actively. I really do think it was masterful. That being said, BF was humming the happy theme for about half an hour afterwards – it’s definitely catchy. Plus, the use of sound in the dream sequence is positively shocking, which I think also added to the echoes of Hitchcock for me. But I won’t say more than that.

Finally, look out for the dog. Absolute legend. It’s Snowy and Tintin all over again.

If you haven’t seen this, you really must. I’m pretty happy to say this is the best film I’ve seen in an extremely long time. In addition, and unlike a lot of other very artistic and ‘good’ films, I actively enjoyed every minute of it, from start to finish. Wonderful. Deserves every award it wins.

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