In my advertising class today we talked about creativity. We discussed author Elizabeth Gilbert’s philosophy on having a creative genius versus being a creative genius. This lecture is one of my favorites of the semester. I look forward to helping the students foster some creativity, whether I’m asking them to tap into it for advertising class, feature writing, or magazine writing. Being open minded with regard to creativity is essential in order to succeed in these fields. Nevertheless, all throughout the day, I was excited to see director Michel Hazanavicius’ creative genius put to work on the big screen in his Oscar-nominated film entitled “The Artist.”
I exited the theatre with a smile on my face for two main reasons: first, because it was a treat to be entertained for 1 hour and 40 minutes as I watched a black and white film where only a handful of words are spoken, and, second, because I may have just seen the Oscar-winning film for Best Picture and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin).
While I am not a certified film critic, I have studied film and am an avid movie enthusiast. When I watch a film, I study everything that’s going on it, from the acting to the cinematography to the musical score to the lighting to the editing and so on. You get the picture (no pun intended). The beauty of “The Artist” and other films that are executed well and are entertaining is that all of these elements of filmmaking must gel in order to present a seamless end product. “The Artist” meets and exceeds its task at creating this type of almost flawless production. And, it achieves this feat without using color film or spoken words.
Without giving anything away, “The Artist” relies primarily on tremendous non-verbal acting skills—in particular, acting without words—to create a mood and an atmosphere that the audience gets sucked into from the moment the first scene unfolds. I found myself holding my breath during parts because I was invested in the film. Hazanavicius forces us to become connected with the characters and we welcome the involvement.
Dujardin (George Valentin) and Berenice Bejo (Peppy Miller) are the two main characters. He’s a married, silent film star, and she’s a young, wanna-be film star. As the movie progresses, it follows their lives as his career winds down and hers begins to take off during the transition in Hollywood when silent films disappeared and talking pictures took center stage. Dujardin deserves the Golden Globe and the SAG awards he’s received. I am guessing an Oscar is probably just days away for him.
And while Hazanavicius delivers this endearing, loveable, little masterpiece of a film, the idea of it is not so complicated at all. A silent film, in our time, about the silent film era and the downslide of an aging, silent film star. It doesn’t sound too complex, and yet that’s the absolute beauty of it and its appeal: Hazanavicius and his crew make it look easy. Becoming absorbed in Valentin’s world and empathizing with his character is pure pleasure; we find ourselves rooting for him and for Peppy as we watch their romance and love develop and change throughout the film.
If you’re not an adventurous film lover and you tend to stick to the same types of films, let me encourage you to be adventurous with this one. Let “The Artist” take you back in time. Try to appreciate the ability to become connected with a character despite the lack of dialogue. And perhaps most importantly, be open to both this simple and complex cinematic experience.
Finally, do yourself a favor. Just like the film itself, stay silent throughout, and only speak when it’s over in order to fully immerse yourself into it. I hope you will experience satisfaction, enjoyment, and a connection to this award-winning film just as I did.