Posted by: David Stewart | December 22, 2011

The Artist in all of us

Films these days usually start with a little animated moment identifying the production company. The first time you realize that The Artist is a completely different kind of movie is that these little vanity logos are played without any sound. Someone in our audience said, "They’re really serious about this being a silent movie!"

But soon enough the orchestra chimes in and the credits roll. But Artist never lets you get away from it’s innovation, or the rather scary relevance of its story.

  • The story takes place in the late 1920s and early 30s in the transition to talking movies. But it looks and sounds like a silent movie you might see in the days before talking pictures. Not only is the image black and white, but it is a low-contrast and soft-focus look common to movies of that era.
  • But before you can relax and think that this will be a complete rip-off of the era of silent pictures, a character flips her middle finger at a show-off actor, demonstrating her displeasure at being upstaged. Who says clear communication needs the spoken word?
  • Like Singing in the Rain, Artist is about that major technological and cultural transition from silent movies to talkies, and a particular silent screen actor caught up in the transition.
  • I found myself thinking about many workers today who have been caught in the gears of economic and social change and their inability to transition to new kinds of work. This is a story for all of us, but particularly as we have met with our own Great Recession in one way or another.
  • Watch carefully throughout for some knowing winks at the audience – some really "meta" moments, like when the movie star hero is really depressed and walks in front of a movie theater called the "Lonely Star."

The Artist has some serious Oscar buzz. It is a good story but also quite innovative. Wonder what it says about this year’s most innovative movie is also the most retro.

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