The more things stay the same……

Went to the movies this afternoon, and saw a silent movie in black and white, just like my grandparents did before 1929.

No, it wasn’t a revival.  We saw The Artist, this year’s verrrrrry hot import from France, nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes.  Here’s the trailer, to get the discussion started:

The stars of the movie, Berenice Bejo and Jean Dujardin, are phenomenal actors and dancers, acting in both the broad style required by silent movies and the naturalism of modern times.

I found that I had to give this marvelous film much more attention than I usually do–lacking dialogue, I had to actively watch everything, read every face.  In movies where the dialogue moves the plot exposition, I often find I am sitting there with my eyes closed just listening to what is happening.

The plot is nothing fancy–big silent movie star sees his career fail when talkies come in, which perky ingenue becomes famous.  Her love is his redemption.  The execution, as always, is the thing, and this execution is perfect.

British actor James Cromwell is magnificent as the long suffering valet/chauffer/man Frida who stands by his employer even when he hasn’t been paid for a year.  John Goodman is alternately serious and comic as the forceful, corpulent studio boss–his face is made for silent movies.

A silent, black and white movie is a conceit, of course, and is hardly likely to start a new trend.  Nonetheless, it sure was pleasant to see a movie that depends on acting and directing to tell the story, not CGI and special effects.  Go see it.

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