So far,The Artist, has to be visually unlike nearly every other single commercially released film made in the twenty first century,appearing outdated in an era where films are regularly made in colour (with optional 3D), wide screen projection, and above all a sound track and dialogue. Many modern audience members have rarely seen a black and white film, rejecting even the classic ones they have seen as dated, and even more rarely,if ever, have they seen a silent film, in which even the styles of acting are sometimes different too. For those who may now find that the very existence of this film confronts their prejudices, it is to be hoped that its entertaining nature, which is the main reason many people like them claim they view films, will broaden their attitudes about what genres of film they consider worth watching.
The setting of this film is Hollywood 1927, the year in which sound revolutionised the film industry. Immediately we see on the screen, a packed theatre with the audience viewing the closing minutes of another film an action adventure with a grinning hero in a mask,escaping the villains,jumping on a plane. Naturally this is silent too, so our audience does not hear him say things like Hasta la vista baby! as he might have done. Its star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) comes out after the screening to take his bow at the end,along with his Jack Russell terrier, an animal that intentionally steals all the scenes in which he later appears. Later while Valentin tours the studio we then see him meet Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) would be actress and dancer auditioning at the studio,offering her helpful advice and assistance ,gaining her break into the industry. The film then deals with her rise and his fall, as the impact of sound aids her, while he unwisely rejects the new technology.
This film is a fairytale about how films are made, and its deliberate resemblance to earlier films like Singing in The Rain has been noted by many critics. It is a comedy,drama, and a deliberate self parody,mocking and celebrating the film making process. Director Michael Hazanavicious tells his story using a wide variety of old fashioned editing techniques, the iris, the wipe, title cards and fades into montages of superimposed images that are almost never seen in modern films. He even focuses our attention on the different aspect ration of the silent screen by highlighting its outline by projecting it within its context of a modern wide screen, yet another film within a film. Like Scorsese 's Hugo, this film is meant to remind audiences of the early days of cinema, that has largely been ignored by most of the audience these days
The French worship American films and cinema. It is over fifty years at least,since film makers like Truffuat and Godard representative of the nouvelle vague in the 1960s filled their films with allusions, appropriations, and hommages to American cinema. Some like Truffuat were even turning out direct imitations of admired American directors work. In this context, the reason for the existence of this curious but clever black and white silent film made in 2011 becomes somewhat more explicable.
The majority of the audience may not care that this film's self referential nature may cause it be labelled post- modern in some critical circles, but I can't help thinking that its gaining a Best Picture Oscar is a huge post modernist joke on the American film industry. Its stars are unknown French actors playing American stereotype characters, backed up with American actors like James Cromwell and John Goodman playing subsidiary roles. This French US co production gains an American Academy Award for imitating American films in a way The French, inventers of the post-modern,have done for years by making a pseudo American film so close to its actual origins of its inspiration that no one notices the difference.
The Artist with its highlighting of techniques,is full of style,which may make it appear to be lacking in substance. It may not be as weighty or thoughtful as The Hurt Locker or The Kings Speech,the winners of the last two years. However, as an unique entertaining experimental film it deserves to be Best Picture.