I turn my camera on. I cut my fingers on the way… The Artist is amazing

Oh my God.  The Artist is amazing.

As everybody keeps pointing out, 2012 is filled with blockbuster movies which are sequels, prequels, reboots, and adaptations.  Yesterday, I panned The Hunger Games because it is objectively a broken film.

The Artist, on the other hand, is creative, original, playful, funny, moving, thoughtful… It’s basically everything that The Hunger Games wasn’t.

And it’s weird that it’s creative and original given the format.  The Artist is a modernised version of a silent film.  The opening sequence shows us an audience watching a silent film.  There’s a pomp and circumstance to the stylised audience of the 1920s that seems alien and distant.  Quaint, as if they don’t know how ordinary and dull it is to watch a film these days.  The 1920s audience has dressed up to go out: men in ties; women in gloves.  I was watching them in their finery while I slumped into my seat wearing a ‘Kant Stop The Music’ t-shirt.

The silence of the film forces the audience to engage with it in… I would say a ‘new’ way, but it’s not true.  It’s us relearning skills needed to watch old films.

I must admit to being a fan of silent movies.  I have box sets of silent films.  I enjoy the jarring theatricality and surreality of the silent movie artform.

It’s therefore weird that I have a fear of mimes.  Scarier than clowns.

The Artist gives the audience a crash course in being a 1920s audience.  As the film begins to unpack the world of the protagonist, the exaggerated artificiality of the actions begins to seem more normal.  The film does such a good job of it that, later, when it begins to play with the conventions using modern techniques and tricks, the modern features seem weird.

Okay, a film has to be more than just technicality brilliant in order to be enjoyable.  In order to move the plot in the correct direction, the film has to make some weird jumps.  The protagonist is married but the film, weirdly, presents him as a single, bachelor type.  When the film introduces the wife, it feels out of place.  In order to get the film moving, the wife pretty much vanishes and nobody seems to care.  That said, it’s a minor complaint: I can think of a lot of films which rely on weird jumps in plot in order to keep the story on track.

The acting is amazing.  It’s possibly because he’s silent, but I actually enjoyed John Goodman.  I’m in shock.  Cameos abound in the film, but none of them manage to steal the show from the two leads who, I must admit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.  I checked them out on IMDB and, despite having seen some of the films listed, I’d struggle to recall their role.

Just about everything in this film is beautiful.  I can’t recommend it enough.

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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