Friday, December 16, 2011

The Artist

Silence is golden. Black and white is the new color. Music is emotion. What do all of these things have in common? They make up the gorgeously rendered new silent film The Artist. Yes, that’s right, silent film.

What a beautiful way to spend a Friday evening. One hour and 40 minutes that I don't want to get back. On the contrary, I want to lose myself again in the grand simplicity of a bygone era.

A glance, a tear, the swell of the strings, a smile, a rampant drum beat - all of these things used to convey what's happening and how you should feel in that moment while watching the scene. I was mesmerized. There was a moment when I realized my cheeks were aching. It was from smiling. I was there, present and along for the ride. I couldn't take my eyes from the screen. What a fascinating gamble that actually paid off. 

I’d been wanting to see The Artist for at least two weeks. I have to say it was worth the wait even though now that I've seen it I wish I hadn't waited so long. 

As people filled the seats of The Paris Theater I was concerned. I won’t lie. I hate going to the movies in New York City. The people are rude and inconsiderate most of the time. That is, I find, until we hit Oscar season. Oscar bait films don’t draw the same texting, cell-phone-answering/talking, baby-bringing, sitting-in-my-own-living-room kind of crowds that say a summer blockbuster draws; I doubt Mr. Transformers is going to rush to see Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. For $13 a pop I want to be able to enjoy the film without the added soundtrack of someone else’s bullshit. I’ve gone off on a tangent, but it has to do with silence. The Artist is silent. There are no loud explosions or crashing vehicles to cover the ambient noise. Only a resplendent score and that’s not going to cover it.

Let me tell you, there was plenty of ambient noise when I sat down. The unwrapping of plastic candy wrappers, the juggling of packages from holiday shopping, the bitching and moaning about traffic, the crunching and chewing and slurping. That is to be expected, but I realized that if it continued during the film it would be a detriment to my mental health and physical enjoyment. Thankfully, I can report that it didn’t continue. We as a collective sat and watched a silent film. It must have been what audiences in the 1920’s did when there were no cell phones and people dressed for a night at the cinema. We laughed together and at times gasped together. It was like breathing as one. We applauded together at the end. And guess what, no one’s cell phone went off and no one pulled out their cell to check the time or to text. Insert satisfied, smiling face here.

Pure escapism is what it was. I know you may be thinking, “Why would I want to sit through a silent film?” To be entertained is the reason, and to see what a film maker can do when the idea of revisiting a moment of cinema history comes to fruition for today's audience.

The story is exciting, funny, heartbreaking, triumphant. Boy meets girl. He’s a movie star, she’s a fan. From obscurity she is plucked and to obscurity he falls. Just as her star begins to soar toward the heavens his begins to descend. We’ve seen the story before, but not like this. Not in silence. As for that music that guides my emotions, it is exuberant from overture to final scene, full of life and movement.

For me, the experience was delicious and one worth repeating, from the first frame to the last, with surprises and unexpected moments thrown in. I enjoy revisiting the past. Classic films are some of my favorites. Film making has come a long way since the days of silent pictures, but when something works, it works. I felt exactly what I was supposed to feel without a word being spoken.

Silence does speak volumes.