‘The Artist’ triumphs with new, refreshing look at retro forms

Nathan Fisher

Illustration: Ruth Hwang

“The Artist” throws the recent onslaught of 3-D and “Avatar”-esque visual effects out the window, and returns to the era of black and white and silent movies. Yes, “The Artist” has no color, and the only sound is the noise of the background musical soundtrack.  The lack of high-tech special effects and incoherent dialogue is completely and utterly refreshing, and I: nostalgic for the days of Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino movies: absolutely loved it!

“The Artist” follows the rise and fall of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent movie megastar.  The movie begins in 1927, and follows the home life and peaking movie career of Valentin with his trusty sidekick Uggie, a Jack Russell terrier. George is at the top of the game until sound testing for movies begins in 1929.  George walks out of a private screening for the sound testing, laughing, saying that if talkies are the future, he does not want any part of it. “I’m not a puppet; I’m an artist,” he says. George becomes an insignificant dinosaur shunned from the movie business as talkies take over the silver screen, giving rise to new faces like Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo).  Years before, George helped Peppy get her first job.  Peppy: and she is quite peppy: swiftly ascends to stardom and tries to help George along the way.

“The Artist” tells a tale of an actor’s struggles of leaving the silent movie era by making the movie in black and white and mostly silent, the very medium that is being left behind.  Brilliant!  The actors must rely on exaggerated facial expressions and body movements and not their voices.  The stripping away of both color and voices forced me to watch the movie more intently, and I felt myself becoming more invested with the characters.  Hands down, “The Artist” is one of my favorite movies this year. I look forward to a repeat showing and having my senses shocked once again.