Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Artist (2011) on DVD

Overall, I was not impressed with The Artist.

Unless you live under a rock (and, hey, I'm not knocking the coziness and safety of a nice, solid rock), you know that The Artist won this year's Best Picture Oscar. I finally got around to watching it on DVD, mostly, I confess, because my husband wanted to. I'm not really into silent films, but I've seen some, as well as other good early film classics, so I knew what to expect.

It is a decent tribute to the end of the silent film-making era, but not great. The acting is spot-on, a little like theater acting with exaggerated facial expressions and large body movements. Once I got into that, I enjoyed it and found it quite humorous, as it was meant to be.

I generally like new faces in movies, but in this case, I wish the movie had more known actors in it because it's entertaining to watch an actor you've seen in modern movies, such as John Goodman, attempt a more theatrical old-school acting style like this. But Goodman was the only familiar face for me.

(SPOILERS AHEAD) The movie's depiction of the transition from silent films to "talkies" is clever, but it isn't as well-done as I thought it could have been. Most of the movie is silent, but as the transition takes place, we get to hear a few sounds and, at the end, even words. I think the movie-makers should have run more with that. It was such a little touch it felt more like the movie stepped away from what it was trying to be rather than that it depicted a transition from silence to speech in films. I would have preferred to have all the sounds and speech at the end of the movie following the transition, but instead, the movie goes back to a silent film for part of that. It needed to be "all in" or leave out the sounds altogether, I think, but maybe that's just my preference for modern-day films surfacing.

More than that, however, what I didn't like about the movie was the story, unfortunately. It's about a romantic affair and an arrogant actor who doesn't learn a thing by the end, even after losing nearly everything. Maybe affairs were a big part of the times, I don't know, but for me, morality sometimes makes or breaks a story. With no clear indication that the affair was a reflection of culture at that time, this movie's morality broke it for me. Nothing bad is shown, of course. It's an emotional affair rather than a sexual one. (SPOILERS END)

The MPAA rates the movie PG-13 for, and I quote, "a disturbing image and a crude gesture," which just makes me laugh. There's nothing your little ones can't see. It's more that anyone under 13 (or maybe 20), with the rare exception, just isn't going to "get it."

If you are not familiar with silent films, this could be a good introduction, simply because it's made today and not a century ago and the film-makers are aware of their modern viewers. But if you have no intention of ever watching a classic silent film, there's no reason to watch this modern one either.


  1. Overall, I was impressed with “The Artist”.

    Some films I watch, I wish they didn't talk. I wish the film was silent just because of the endless talking and pointless clunky dialogue, but that's only a side issue.

    I don't get the part about seeing familiar faces in a film. "The Artist" is a foreign film (it's French), and I don't care who is in a film as long as they're good in it. I think everyone including John Goodman and James Cromwell were great.

    Have you ever seen "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)? “The Artist” heavily references this film, as well as many other classic films, directors, and methods of filming. It's about the transition from silent to sound films and the difficulty that some actors and audiences had with that transition. “Singin' in the Rain” is one of the best films ever made, and the only unfortunate thing about it is that the originally planned title "Hollywood" was not used, even though that title is much more germane to the subject matter.

    "The Artist" is not an average silent film. It is a film about Hollywood, and it is a tribute to Hollywood, not a tribute to the end of the silent film-making era. Its main character struggles with the transition from silent to sound films. Many actors and actresses didn't make it in that very difficult transition. Can you imagine having beautiful looks and a voice that sounds like nails on a chalkboard - or a foreign accent that average people cannot understand or don't like to listen to? It would destroy your career (life).

    It turns out this actor is in the category of not making the transition well. His flaws make him a sympathetic character. It's a classic story of one character's rise to stardom and the other character's fall from grace due to the change of show business. “Singin' in the Rain” was a tribute to the transition from silent to sound. The last thing I would want to see is a remake of “Singin' in the Rain”. Instead, “The Artist” builds on that, takes a chance, and instead goes for nearly all silent, which is a rarity, and to some, a refreshing rarity. Sometimes it's nice to have a film that doesn't fill time up with pointless dialogue.

    I think the movie went briefly to sound and back to silent because it wanted to accentuate what is going through the main character's head and how difficult it made his life. I don't need sound in a film to enjoy it and I feel sorry for anyone who does. A clean break from silent to sound completely takes away the reality of what life for these people in show business was like back then. It was a jarring, life-changing, career-breaking experience that wasn't a clean smooth break at all. I don't think the actor was arrogant, I think he was stuck in his times and the new world he found himself in was foreign to him, much like what happens to inexperienced people when they see a silent film for the first time. They ask "Where's the sound?" Instead, he's asking "Where's the silence?" I also thought he learned plenty by the end of the film.

    I've heard from a number of people who have said that “The Artist” is an amazing film, and none of them are classic or silent film buffs. They liked the new experience because they liked different things and because it took them into a different world, which movies have a hard enough time of doing.

    So the affair the two characters have is an emotional affair, but it's immoral? I don't quite understand. I also don't understand your part about the lack of indication that the “affair” was a reflection of culture at that time.

    So if the viewer doesn't have any intent on watching classic silent films in the future, then they have no reason whatsoever to watch "The Artist"?

    1. Brian, I'm not surprised that you responded to this and got a lot more out of the movie than I did.

      So, there you have it, folks: two entirely different interpretations and appreciations of one movie. Brian is something of an expert on classic movies, if that helps anyone understand where he's coming from on this.

      But I don't apologize for my own take on it.

  2. Natasha, everyone has a right to their opinion and I would never ask someone to apologize for an opinion, and I definitely would not ask for that. So I should apologize to you if you took it that way.

    However, I do sometimes ask for further explanation of an opinion. Since your site is about moral reviews, if you're going to label a story as having bad "morality", I think you should flesh out your argument more and explain exactly what you mean.

    Because if the morality of the story ruined the movie for you, then that should be a detailed part of the review, and that part is what interested me the most. Issues such as what made the relationship immoral, what the social customs of the time had to do with it, etc, are important things to explain.

    1. I'd be happy to clarify how the morality tainted my view of this movie. I realize my comments regarding this in the review were rather brief and vague.

      To me, an affair is an affair, whether physical or only emotional. There's little difference, as far as I'm concerned. What makes a relationship an affair? In this case, the man can't speak to his own wife, but the new, young actress makes him feel alive. There's a subtle line between friendship and attraction, particularly in the work environment. Granted, the characters don't act much on their attraction beyond a kiss, but I'd still call that an emotional affair. Isn't abandoning your wife for another's woman's attention wrong, even if all you're doing is laughing together? You are taking something you should be giving to your wife and giving it to another woman. It's not sex, but in some ways, it's just as hurtful, and in many cases, emotional affairs lead to physical affairs.

      I suppose that in some cultures it's no big deal to have a mistress (unless you talk to the wife!), and I can't speak for the French on this. Also, I can't say whether affairs were common back in the early days of the film industry. I don't know. I was curious as to the reason the film makers made the entire film revolve around the relationship between a married man and another woman. I didn't know if they were trying to be true to the times (perhaps affairs were a dime a dozen in that era) or if the whole scenario arose out of our own modern culture's relaxed morals. Perhaps the film makers themselves saw nothing wrong with the relationship, and it's not a reflection of any time or culture but their own. What I'm getting at is that I would have picked a scenario that reflected the mindset of the people of that era while still being common enough for the people of our generation to identify with. And maybe that's what they did. I can accept a movie's relaxed morals when it's purposefully trying to reflect culture or say something about society, but a movie that puts it in there for no reason bugs me. In this case, I couldn't see the reason. I hope that clears up some of your confusion on my comment regarding whether or not the affair was a reflection of the culture at the time.

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your insight into the background of this film, even if I don't agree with aspects of your interpretation.

  3. Natasha, thank you for your clarification.

    I'd be happy to clarify why there is an affair in this movie.

    True, in some cultures, and some parts of culture in this country, it's no big deal to have multiple partners. The world is a big place, and not every society has the same moral code.

    The affair that takes place in "The Artist" is not in the film for "no reason", and it has nothing to do with any perceived relaxed morals of the French people who made the film.

    You say that you are curious as to why the movie revolves around an affair between a married man and another woman. The affair that takes place in the movie is reflective of the times because the main character is based on the real life silent film actor Douglas Fairbanks.

    Douglas Fairbanks was married to Anna Beth Sully in 1907. In 1916, Fairbanks met silent film actress Mary Pickford at a party and they began having an affair. Mary Pickford was married to actor Owen Moore at the time (since 1911), so actually she was having an affair at the same time Fairbanks was. They were both married to different people.

    Fairbanks and Sully were divorced in 1919, and Pickford and Moore divorced in 1920, and then Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were married in 1920. They remained married until they divorced in 1936 and remarried different people who they remained married to until they died. He died in 1939 at age 56 and she died in 1979 at age 87.

    I would say it's a very clear and true assumption to make that morals in the Hollywood of today are a more relaxed than the morals in the Hollywood of the late 1920s, but there were plenty of affairs, divorces, remarrying, etc. during that age of Hollywood too.

    Since Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were both having affairs, I would add "(unless you talk to the husband!)" to your discussion on affairs. I'm sure Owen Moore may have shared the same feelings as Anna Beth Sully, although we certainly can't get into their heads now. Women can have affairs too. And after all, like you say, an affair is an affair.

    So it may still bug you that there was an affair in this movie, as grounded in real life as it is, but I guess if the Peppy Miller character (the lead female role in "The Artist") was also having an affair, maybe you'd be doubly bugged.

    However, if you say that you can accept a movie's relaxed morals when it's purposefully trying to reflect culture (in this case the movie is directly reflecting a specific person), then, well, there's your reason.

    1. Your explanation makes sense and makes the movie make more sense. Yet I can't help but think a movie should be able to be understood without someone having to explain the back story. However, maybe this history is common knowledge, and I'm just one of the few in the dark.

      I didn't mean to imply women don't have affairs, too. I totally agree with you on that. I was just using the movie's example, which involved the man.

      Thanks, again, for the discussion!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.