The film “The Artist”, now in limited release, continues to collect raves from professional critics and audiences alike.
As a filmmaker, I admit to being intrigued by the idea of a nearly-silent film. My rants against our so-called visual media engaging in standing (or sitting) around talking have reached the pariah threshold. Watch any drama, film or TV, and all you get are people yakking away at each other. The only shift to action is to move to a different location for yakking at other people.
Even though I find the theater experience decreasingly compelling with each passing year I felt curious enough to lay down hard-earned ducats to see “The Artist” during a snowstorm, by which means I managed to up the likelihood of a positive experience. With only two other people in the small screening room, mission accomplished.
First of all, the film is in black and white, with an interesting choice of a 4:3 aspect ratio. I didn’t care for the washed-out look of the B&W image but that’s a minor point. It is also a silent film. By this I mean that the audience doesn’t hear the endless prattle between actors, not that the writer and director created a masterful film of strictly visual storytelling.
The true test of any film is the story, silent or talkie. Not the cinematography, not the acting, not the editing. Having a beautiful-looking film with a poor story is like having a fabulously-designed house without a foundation. In the end, “The Artist” is a hum-drum love story as predictable as the rain in Seattle. If this film had been shot in color with full sound, nobody would watch it.
I honestly don’t know why people get blinded by gimmicks but they do, whether by giant blue aliens or a film edited backwards (“Memento”) or a modern silent film. If the gimmick is strong enough people will ignore the story faults and praise the film’s originality. At first. The test of a film’s story strength is in the number of times you re-watch it.
“The Artist” rates 1 viewing, preferably streaming.