I used to love nothing more than to lose myself at the movies. But there hasn’t been much worth justifying the drive and the price, especially when you can watch at home. And no matter the venue, I’m usually disappointed. Seems if a movie half-tries, it’s proclaimed a masterpiece.
So despite all the buzz about the French silent movie The Artist, hadn’t gotten around to seeing it. But once I saw one of its stars, a Jack Russell named Uggie, was getting lots of press, I put it at the top of my list.
Never been a fan of silent movies. Not that I’ve seen many. Always thought they were too schmaltzy and slow. And though I once had an Italian film teacher who contended any good film doesn’t need sound, I never totally bought into that.
So I went for the dog. The loyal sidekick was endearing — as only Jack Russells can be.
And the movie? First I thought it was tedious. That I’d have to work too hard at body language to get the story. That’s how lazy and dependent I’d become. We’d all become. Too many effects. No enough focus on acting.
And then I was drawn in. Best movie of the year? Wouldn’t go that far. But definitely a charming diversion.
The fact that it was an homage to silent movies within an authentic silent movie was a neat turn. And that the French director was able to slow today’s technology down to the point of evoking 1920’s Hollywood was in itself a very special effect.
The production and the music were fabulous. It was a visual love letter to Hollywood. And a treat to see familiar sites like the Paramount Studios lot, where I once worked, frozen in a bygone era.
And fun to see old faves John Goodman, James Cromwell and Malcolm McDowell in a different light — in black and white. As silent film stars. Quite a departure from Babe, Six Feet Under, Roseanne and A Clockwork Orange.
As for the leads, Frenchman Jean Dujardin was a showstopping mixture of Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Gene Kelly and Jon Hamm’s Don Draper. Berenice Bejo, the director’s wife, was cute as Dujardin’s love interest.
The premise — as old as films have been around — needed some spark to give it new life. Also, she didn’t electrify the screen like he did, IMO. And I didn’t find their chemistry totally convincing.
That’s why the film ultimately didn’t work for me.
But I give Uggie a four-paws-up for his tireless performance.