THE ARTIST: Reprisals of Change

Michel Hazanavicius’ new film, THE ARTIST, offers a glimpse of what happens to life when one opts not to go with the flow.

Words: Zoy Britton

Michel Hazanavicius’ romantic, French film, The Artist, portrays the reprisals of change via the parallels that arise from the interplay of emoting silently versus emoting through words and sounds. 2011 Cannes Film Festival Best Actor winner Jean Ducardin plays George Valentin, a successful silent film actor who finds his carefully arranged life shook about by the arrival of the beautiful, enigmatic, excited and aptly named Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo. The two share an immediate chemistry that clearly fascinates Valentin, who begins churning the wheels of fate as he gives Peppy her first big break as a dancing extra in one of his films. Ironically, it is Valentin’s very assistance which eventually catapults Peppy to Hollywood stardom and relegates Valentin to the status of an antiquated novelty. Peppy’s bright disposition clearly symbolizes the ushering in of a new guard—the fresh faces that replace the staleness of their home studio’s (Kinograph Studio) current reigning stars, i.e., Valentin.

1929 brings the rise of “talkies” or films with sound a la film adaptations of Shakespearian plays and stories of legendary adventurers like Robin Hood as they are put to screen, causing silent films to lose their popularity. While Valentin draws his daily bread and butter from the success of his silent films, when he is presented with insight on the changing landscape of films of the future in the form of the groundbreaking “talkies”, he rejects it resoundingly, telling Kinograph’s owner “If that’s the future, then you can have it.” In that instant the irony of Valentin’s rejection finds its way to his own door as he finds himself rejected in the emerging film world; handing his own future over to the dogs by rejecting the offered, forward-thinking alternative presented by his acceptance of a starring role in a “talkie”.

Drawing a parallel to the plight of the creative set in today’s real world, The Artist cleverly articulates how time waits for no one and thus, has no patience for those who are unwilling to navigate (read transcend) life’s oft erratic current. The spectacularly abrupt arrival of George’s career demise seems almost hyperbolized, yet it is significant in conveying the fact that change happens in an instant; if you cannot adapt, you will undoubtedly be left behind. Only the night before Valentin finds himself rejected by his studio, he suffers from a nightmare sequence in which the world around him is speaking although he is trapped in silence—a silence which once proved a source of solace now becomes the very root of Valentin’s oppression (It’s almost as if fate attempted to warn him of his impending destiny…), losing all of his money and his marriage as a result. What follows is an emotional decline that leads him to the brink of suicide just before he finally realizes, of course, with Peppy’s help, that anyone can resurrect once the decision to fight change is replaced by the need to simply accept it. Artfully acted and brilliantly directed, The Artist offers an important life lesson for all those who’d prefer a vibrant, creative life over impending doom.

Michel Hazanavicius’ film, The Artist, is playing in select theaters in the US, UK and Australia.

For more information on the film, The Artist, or to buy the soundtrack, visit the official site, HERE

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