So this weekend, I finally watched “The Artist” (2011). I am now obsessed with silent movies.
For those of you who have not seen this film and are therefore not yet obsessed with silent movies, here are some reasons why you should watch it, immediately.
1. Black and white films are so beautiful. Every silhouette adds to the story and every scene looks as though it should be framed on a wall. It screams Hollywood from every angle. If you like looking at pretty things, you will love “The Artist”.
2. “The Artist” is a silent film, about the film industry as it progressed from the silent film era into the production of “talkies” in the early 1930s. Amazing film plus a history lesson. Two birds. One film. Win win.
3. As it is a silent film, the actors are super expressive because they obviously can’t use their vocal chords. Expect extravagant facial expressions that should never apply in real life, and wonderful dance moves that often resemble chickens attempting to take flight. Life would be so much more fun if we all had to communicate this way.
4. While it is usually possible to work out what the heck is going on from the action on screen, it is also quite fun trying to lip read. I am terrible at lip reading. If the actor was saying, “Hey John, its good to see ya! How’ve ya been?”, I’d probably come up with “Firefly, pretty little picture! Where’s the bin?” and it would make no sense whatsoever. But its ok! Help is at hand with the artistic calligraphy style signs that give us snippets of conversation
5. The star of the show is undoubtedly Uggie, George Valentin’s all singing, all dancing, life saving dog. He is amazing. Every home should have one.
6. Alfred Hitchcock, Hollywood genius, said this – “Silent Pictures were the purest form of cinema”. He obviously knows what he’s talking about, therefore everyone should love silent movies.
7. The music makes the movie. I believe this about all film and TV productions anyway, but it is especially true in silent films. Ludovic Bource has done a smashing job with the score in “The Artist” and even won an academy award for it. Good job Ludovic. Very well done.
8. I love the relationships portrayed in this film. I especially enjoy the old switcheroo between Valentin and Miller. At the beginning he is the biggest star of Hollywood and she is just starting out as an extra on set. He gives her a boost up and watches out for her. As Miller climbs up into the rafters of stardom, Valentin finds himself being hoisted down, a little too quickly. But Miller never forgets what Valentin did for her and returns the favour by looking out for him when he is down on his luck. Cute. It helps that they are both super gorgeous and fancy the pants off each other.
9. There’s something very wholesome about watching a silent movie. I can often find myself drifting off from the TV, and getting caught up in doing my nails or deciding which cupcake recipe to try next. But a silent movie demands your whole attention. There is so much to focus on; the gestures, the aforementioned facial expressions and lip reading, the music and the artistic shots. Each element is equally important in developing the world and the story on screen.
10. After watching this film you will want to realise lifelong ambitions, previously unknown to you, to a) tap dance b) have a beauty spot c) live in black and white (instagram can help here) d) own a bowler hat and e) learn to lip read.
Wouldn’t it be great if silent films were more readily available to us of a weekend or a midweek eve? There are countless film festivals around the world that celebrate the form of course. I don’t know about you but I for one find it a bit tricky to nip across to San Francisco or Toronto to settle down to a silent film. There are festivals closer to home of course but still, who can be bothered to travel? Lets get them back into local theatres, with full live orchestras at the front and ladies wearing funny hats and gentlemen smoking cigars in the foyer (or outside in a special designated cigar area for health and safety reasons). That would be so amazing! I want this to happen. Then people with silly voices but beautiful faces could happily entertain us all without inducing eye watering cringe on our ears. Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus; I’m looking at you.