If you haven’t already, rush right out and see The Artist! I saw it this afternoon and loved it. It’s charming, clever, and unique, with a lovely blend of humor and pathos. It’s too bad so many people will skip seeing this film just because it’s (mostly) silent and in black and white. They don’t know what they’re missing!
For anyone who loves classic movies, The Artist is a real kick. Bérénice Bejo plays starlet Peppy Miller, and she’s absolutely adorable. She does a wonderful job of emoting in a way that seems true to the silent movie style without being over the top. She says a lot with her eyes.
Jean Dujardin is handsome and charismatic as silent star George Valentin, a blend of the swashbuckling, mustachioed Douglas Fairbanks and Gene Kelly’s character from Singin’ in the Rain. In fact the movie itself owes a lot to Singin’ in the Rain, and also to A Star is Born and Sunset Boulevard. Still, it’s its own entity and is beautifully done.
The only thing that took me aback was the extensive use of Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo score during the movie’s heart-wrenching climactic sequence. They don’t just play a little snippet — it goes on and on and on. Of course the filmmakers got the rights to use Herrmann’s score, but it’s still a little odd to me that a film that shows Ludovic Bource as the composer during the opening credits waits until the final credits roll to mention Herrmann’s contribution to the music played during the film. It just bothers me that some people seeing The Artist will hear that beautiful, haunting bit of the movie’s score and think it was written by Bource. I don’t blame Kim Novak for getting upset, although her reaction seems over the top.
Here’s part of Herrmann’s score from Vertigo. To me it’s so inextricably linked to Hitchcock’s film that it took me out of the moment a little, hearing it during The Artist.
Anyway, I really encourage you to see The Artist if you get the chance. It’s a witty, ingenious tribute to an early era in Hollywood history. It’s made me want to watch more silent movies on TCM, and to finally read Jeanine Basinger’s book, Silent Stars.