‘The Artist’: A Colorful Revival of Silent Film

'The Artist' is a silent black and white film, a rarity in today's cinematic norm of flashy lights, sounds and special effects. Photo courtesy of upcoming-movies.com.

By Andi Hubbell

Staff Writer

Raised as technology-dependent multi-taskers, our generation has been conditioned to retain a short attention span. Modern day students can hardly manage to devote attention to a task for more than a few minutes without texting a friend, checking Facebook or sifting through songs on their iPods.

Given our apparent inability to focus, it’s hardly a mystery as to why Hollywood has become so reliant on special effects in recent years. Determined to grab young adults’ attention, filmmakers overwhelm us with 3D effects and computer animation.  Unfortunately, high-quality acting and meaningful storylines, like those in the 2011 film “The Artist,” are often overshadowed by the effects-saturated competition.

In an era where movies like “Avatar” are revered as paragons of film production, it would seem that a movie devoid of special effects, would fail to make a dent. But the 2011 film “The Artist” challenges this notion. Nominated for 10 Oscars, the French film manages to capture audience’s attention without special effects, sound or color.

The black and white silent film follows 1920s silent film star George Valentin’s (Jean Dujardin) as he struggles to maintain his posh lifestyle and prosperous career after talkies begin to expand in popularity. With its traditional silent movie ambiance and charming storyline, the film is a welcome change of pace from the special effects-saturated blockbusters customary in modern-day Hollywood.

Instead of depending on dialogue to intrigue audience members, the film relies entirely on its actors’ skilled body language and animated facial expressions to guide the plot. Without the luxury of sound, Dujardin and costar Bérenice Bejo manage to create relatable, multi-dimensional characters with whom viewers will easily identify — a powerful testament to their top-notch acting skills.

The absence of gratuitous special effects in “The Artist” allows audience members to take notice of the elements that make a film truly remarkable. Instead of focusing on distracting, fantastical visuals, viewers can perceive the stunningly realistic emotions conveyed by Dujardin and Bejo. Guided by the film’s lighthearted musical score, audience members can enjoy a refreshingly simplistic and meaningful movie experience.

Turned off by its classification as a black and white silent film, most young adults probably won’t give the notion of seeing “The Artist” in theaters a second thought. However, a film like “The Artist” is unquestionably worth the bus drive to the nearby AFI Silver Theatre. “The Artist” has the potential to teach our over-stimulated generation to appreciate subtlety and simplicity — if we can only abandon our phones, computers and MP3 players long enough to make it to the theater.

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