Pure Artistry

I stopped going to the movies years ago. Irritated by the ever-increasing ticket prices and new gimmicks to get me in the door like the 3-D fad (leave it to Hollywood to come up with their brand new idea, straight from the 1950s!), and with the advent of having movies streamed right to the comfort of my own bedroom, I just stopped going. With very, very few exceptions.

The downside, of course, is that I don't get to see a lot of really fine new movies.

At long last, I saw that the Best Picture feature from a few years ago finally made it to Netflix streaming: The Artist. Winner of not only the big prize, it won other big prizes, too, including Best Director and Best Actor. Now, in the past I have belatedly seen some Best Picture movies that I thought were pure, 100% garbage. Forgettable, un-amusing, nihilistic, and utterly un-entertaining films like American Beauty. That was two hours of my life I'll never recoup.

The Artist? Despite coming up with a new idea straight from the 1920s, it was everything they said it was.

Much has been written about the film, and I don't have too much to add. It was not a profound plot, by any stretch. But it was delightful. What amazed me is the amount of sheer creativity some people in this world have. To shoot a black and white, silent film in the 21st century is not just bold, but brilliant.

Some scenes, from a cinematic point of view, were just ingenious. The scene where Peppy Miller is in George's dressing room fooling around with his empty tuxedo was all the pure comedic genius of that truly great silent movie maker, Charlie Chaplin. The camera work when the down and out George is sitting at a glass table drinking whiskey, and the camera slowly tilts so that you're now looking at his reflection in the table was perfect. The gray-scale colors and tones were perfect throughout, nowhere more than in George's burned-out apartment. The use of sound was just captivating, like the moment George realized that "talkies" really are the future. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he hears everything, his glass clunking on the desk, people laughing, his dog barking, and yet when he opens his mouth nothing comes out. The sound of this "silent film" became the perfect metaphor in and of itself. Brilliant and creative.

I was not moved by the film. It gave no profound message. But it was, in total, a pure and beautiful work of art. My life has been enriched just having seen it.

And if you haven't, I suggest you do.

You can stream it straight to your bedroom. What a world!

Brian Mattson