News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

February 21, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Always fond of those silent types — of movies

TERRE HAUTE — I’m not a big movie fan, but a few days ago Number Two son said he  almost had to have me sedated and hauled off to a movie. He insisted that I’d enjoy it.

It seemed to meet all my criteria: no one gets shot, nothing blows up, no car chases and crashes, no zombies or extraterrestrials and, best of all, it was a silent movie! There was no highly-amplified sound (except for the previews of coming “attractions”). Noise makes me nuts.

So, my Best Friend and I went out over the weekend to see “The Artist.” The last silent movie I had seen was a Charlie Chaplin thing, about the last in his career. I was about 9 years old and I thought it was dumb.

“The Artist” was really special. There was music, just like in the old silent movies, used to set the scene, but because it created a mood, it was neither objectionable nor loud.

Briefly, it involves a silent film star who assists a young actress at the beginning of her career. With the advent of “talkies,” his career is washed up while hers soars. He insisted that talkies were a fad and that people loved him when they couldn’t hear him, and would continue to love him and his faithful dog.

“The Artist” details the former star’s descent into poverty and despair, with a nudge in the wrong direction from the Great Depression. The movie also ends with hope as well as with an on-screen bit of dialogue which is one of the few actual sounds in the film.

Filmed in black and white like the old silent films, it brought to mind the careers ended by the talkies. Rudolph Valentino was washed up as a swashbuckling sheik when his high-pitched and squeaky voice didn’t suit the image of a sheik. Greta Garbo’s romantic leading man, John Griffith, was similarly afflicted. I don’t recall any female careers doomed by sound. Maybe that’s because women’s voices are expected to be high pitched?

“The Artist” features two French stars, neither of which I had heard of, but a cameo by John Goodman brought a modern focus. It was an afternoon well spent and best of all, for this dog fancier, the faithful dog “Uggie” was frosting on the cake.

Number Two son was right. I loved it. And the next time you have a suggestion, don’t hold back.

Liz Ciancone is a retired

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    March 12, 2010