When I first heard about "The Artist" (2011) I thought, "This is a movie that I should like, but won't." Black and white. Almost entirely silent, as regards speaking. French actors/director. An homage to films of the 20's and 30's.
I figured "The Artist" would be one of those films my wife and I go to at Salem Cinema because it's an artsy, indie movie that's getting a lot of attention. Afterwards we'd look at each other and say, "What was that all about?," then go home and watch something genuinely enjoyable on TV, like The Colbert Report.
Wrong. I was so wrong.
Last night we went to see "The Artist" with some friends. Loved it. Not only is it one of the best movies I've ever seen, it's one of the most memorable. There are quite a few scenes in it that I hope I'll never forget, and likely never will.
Go see it, if you're able to. If not, put the movie on your Netflix queue, now.
What grabbed me the most about "The Artist" was the incredible performances by the lead actors, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. Their faces are so wonderfully expressive. Their movements, equally so. Watch videos of the trailer and other clips. You'll see what I mean.
Words are important to me. As they are to everybody. We use so many of them every day, speaking, writing, reading. Yet...
"The Artist" showed how so much can be expressed in wordless bodily ways, either with or without accompanying words. Great actors like Dujardin and Bejo know how to do this. I was amazed at how easy it was to follow the plot of this movie with very few silent movie captions shown on the screen.
As with art, so with life. Do we really pay attention to body language, our physical surroundings, the sights, sounds, smells, and such which surround us every waking moment of every day?
And do we freely express ourselves as we respond to all this sensory stimulation?
How much do we hold in, repress, keep under control? Sure, few of us are as engagingly attractive as Dujardin and Bejo. But everybody can let loose what is within through smiles, frowns, gestures, laughter, tears -- whatever feelings beg to be let loose from the emotional cage we often keep ourselves cooped up in.
A few days ago my wife and I took part in a two-hour meeting where everybody was upset about something or other. It wasn't pleasant. Yet it was satisfying. I got to express myself in ways I hadn't been able to before through emails and phone conversations.
I was pissed at how I'd been treated by some other people. Before the meeting started we were warned by the facilitator to "self soothe" if our feelings got too intense, to use "I" messages rather than accusatory language -- all that good counseling stuff.
When my turn came to say what I wanted in the five minutes allotted to me, the facilitator interrupted me partway through. "Too intense." "Too much energy." "Too much body language."
At the time I tried to look contrite.
But at the moment, as now, I actually felt good that what I was feeling within me was being expressed so vividly to other people. If I'd felt OK with the crappy way I'd been treated by some members of the group, then I would have acted all calm, positive, and huggie-feely. I didn't though. What other people saw was what there was: irritation, dissatisfaction, a desire to change things for the better.
In "The Artist" the main characters go through lots of ups and downs. They don't keep their emotional reactions to these roller coaster rides of life a secret. They're expressed marvelously in ways both subtle and in-your-face.
I'm inspired. To do the same. To let what is within be shared without more freely, openly, energetically. Without words. With words. Whatever. However.
Not crazily; not hurtfully; not aggressively. Honestly.
Life is too short to be lived within cages of our own making. Dujardin's character, George Valentin, gambles on a self-financed silent film just as "talkies" are about to take over the movie industry. He fails at the box office. And succeeds as an artist, as a man, as a human being.
Here's Richard Roeper's A+ video review.