Five years after release, how well does Academy Award winner The Artist stand up?
On first viewing I greatly enjoyed its sly humour and novelty. There are some beautifully crafted scenes such as the dream sequence below.
The sudden intrusion of sound in a previously silent film is far more effective when seen in context. The scene doesn't just serve as foreshadowing of George's struggles in a world of talkies, it captures the inner turmoil that any life-changing event can provoke - a death, redundancy, the end of a relationship...
Cinema isn't all pyrotechnics, a few deft touches can enrich it - George's wife doodling on his photo, his reaction, and the expressions of the extras in the scene below:
Ultimately though, I found it a little disappointing to revisit. Its novelty allowed me to watch a melodrama uncritically and cynically on first viewing, something that wouldn't normally be possible. (This is interesting of itself, and gives me a better understanding of why people respond to the genre.) I was expecting some kind of darker twist, a some acknowledgement of the people chewed up by the Hollywood dream factory. Instead it plays the myth straight. It's the story of a privileged man who wallows in self-pity after his world is upturned, who doesn't change or adapt. The status-quo is restored when his paramour rescues him, much like an inverted damsel-in-distress. However, the final twist of the film, where we finally hear George speak, does redeem this lack of development - another artful moment that forces the audience to re-interpret the entire movie.