Then we went to get our movie tickets. Because the movie theatre is an independent one, known for showing obscure movies not released in theatres or foreign films, it’s not got a big lobby like a multi-plex. So we got our ticket and had to stand out in the cold in line. But not for very long. The theatre was quite full as it’s the only place it’s playing. The only downside was the woman next to me had on a very strong perfume. I didn’t care for it anyway, but combined with that movie theatre popcorn smell. Ugh. And since the theatre is old, that butter smell has probably been there for 40 years. LOL I think my daughter was by far the youngest person there. Most people seemed over 60. But she’s very interested in film (wants to take film studies) and was intrigued by the concept, so I was happy to go with her even if her friends weren’t.
Anyway, the movie. It is very different, and has been nominated for six Golden Globes and has won, or been nominated for, several other awards, with the male star Jean Dujardin winning best actor at Cannes.
The lead character, George Valentin, is a huge star of silent films. However when talkies come in, he wants nothing to do with it, sure that’s it’s a fad. However soon he’s out of work and a young woman Peppy, who was an extra in a movie with him, is the darling of the talking cinema, and he’s spiraling down into depression. His wife leaves him, the stock market crash leaves him broke, and he’s a legend in his own mind only now. However he keeps running into Peppy, who has been in love with him for years, but it’s fairly one-sided. When he has a breakdown, and nearly kills himself setting his apartment on fire, he finds out she’s been the one buying his memorabilia to help him out, which stings his pride.
So it’s a pretty standard story, it’s well done, but not spectacular. What is, is the way the story is told. His life is a silent movie. The entire movie is done as a silent movie, about silent movies. :-) It’s black and white, there is no speaking, only music, and you see the words on the screen as you would in a silent movie. It’s a very intriguing concept. You don’t realize how much you rely on words and tone to convey what is happening, until there are none. The actors use overly dramatic movements in those old movies because there was no other way to convey if you were angry or sad or surprised.
They also don’t script every word on the screen. You do a fair bit of lip reading, and just imaging it from context. They meet on a staircase, and you can tell she is really excited and crushing on him, and she’s babbling on and you have no clue what she’s saying, but you don’t need to know. You can tell how she’s feeling just from the action on the screen and the music. So it was very a very cool concept. Also near the end, there is about 90 seconds of absolute silence. No music, nothing. You don’t get that in a movie. Movies are like radio, dead air is to be feared. And it was very weird. Suddenly you hear EVERYTHING in the theatre and you become very aware of yourself. You only really get to hear sound for about 90 seconds at the end, when the lead actor finally says two words on-screen (with the cutest French accent).
Definitely worth a chance to see, however I doubt it will be at any of the big multiplexes (unless it wins a Golden Globe or Academy Award). I’ve put a clip below so you can get a feel for what it was like. If you get the chance, I’d say go and see it.