The Artist (2011)

“The Artist” (2011)

IMDb

the smile

We’ve seen things like this before, haven’t we? Films that are not about films, but instead a love letter to other films.

I’m not nearly as fascinated about such incursions as i am for anything really new that comes out. As far as i know, the most fascinating referenced cinema is the one that captures the lessons of great previous films, and extends its notions a little bit. Or break them. You have people, like the Coens or de Palma, who made a career twisting the ideas of people before them. If we talk about silent films, than Guy Maddin is someone who really picked up what we stopped caring about with The Jazz singer, and twisted every notion to create something new. That’s the kind of reference that i’m looking at with passion.

This one enters the Cinema Paradiso drawer: expansive genuine passion for a certain type or moment of cinema history, poured into a vessel of nostalgia. You will understand these films if you understand that nostalgia, not necessarily the films that it addresses. Unashamed sweetness tops these attitude. You decide to play in that world or not. I’ve entered it several times. But i don’t stay there more than a few moments without feeling that i’m bypassing something really important, in other films being made.

That said, this one is a pretty good homage, in that flat sense. Some elements work amazingly well here, and one is even interesting from a cinematic point of view:

the one thing that works incredibly well is the main male actor: Whoever chose him understood his potential, he understood what it took for a silent actor to live on screen, and the director definitely understood his face, every angle of it. He smiles in a way that i’ve seen very few times. That smile carries the film, when he doesn’t smile, we easily enter the depressive mood of the character represented by the absence of its actor’s smile. Actors representing actors is something always interesting. To do it pretty much with a smile alone, makes him worthy of the Oscar. By the way, he is always an actor on the film. When he is acting for the silent films in the film, he has a similarly camera aware attitude as when he is in the real world of the film.

The narrative unfolds around and is finished with films, of course. That’s why our on screen lovers get together making a film, and his love for her is reaffirmed by the scenes of another film they made together. It’s the necessary self-reference, required for films like this to work.

And there is one remarkable scene. The “sound” dream. Our silent character dreams the world gains sound, objects, everything starts to produce sounds, except his own voice. This is remarkable because nothing is explained, everything is in the eye. The mere editing of simple sounds in an other than that silent scene makes us understand the drama of this character on verge of extinction. That was a cinematic moment.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb

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