I finally watched this movie, by invitation from a friend, though I have actually bought the DVD, plus I have already known the plot summary. But then my friend said watching it in the cinema would obviously be different. I suppose so. As it’s a silent movie, music and sound effect would play bigger role than usual.
But Peppy, the rising star of the talkies, the actress whom the audience can hear, thinks that the difference between the silent movie and sound movie is not the sound, but rather the ‘mugging’, as the actor in the former tries hard to be understood. perhaps like pantomime. but of course, not as exaggerated as the German expressionist movie Nosferatu (1922).
Seeing this movie, when you don’t have to hear all the conversations, relaxes you. Unless you’re trying to read lips. But the texts are most often enough. You don’t have to hear what Peppy’s boyfriend says when they are watching George Valentin’s debut as actor-cum-director-cum-producer, Tears of Love. But things are sometimes better left un-texted, like what the police officers says to George. Censorship on humiliation. And sometimes, the text can even fool you, like the signified of ‘Bang!!’ is not always the fire of a gun.
Actually, if you have watched Singin in the Rain, you would have known that the talkies’ way to success was not as smooth as Peppy’s career…
Yeah, it’s a movie about a movie. a meta-movie? But watching how the story unfolds can be romantic. What i notice is, the couple have never actually say I love you to each other, though they are in at the right time and the right place–according to Hollywood standards–on several occasions. perhaps a kind of professional love (oxymoronic?). or platonic love.
But again, I cant help noticing some scenes which definitely refer to other movies, movies The Artist pays tribute to. For example, Citizen Kane’s Xanadu in the scene when George is discovering his ‘treasures’ in a room in Peppy’s house; also a little bit of Kane’s first wife in George’s wife. (The reel and fire scene reminds you of The Aviator or Inglorious Basterds?)
Bottom line, I love this movie. I love the black-and-white picture. I love the surrealist psychedelic vision, I love that they dance together.