The Artist

Posted: February 27, 2012 in Film reviews

Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo.

It’s 1927 and George Valentin is a big time Hollywood(land)star, wealthy and adored by millions. There’s only one problem, George is a silent movie star and talkies are on the way in. As George’s star plummets, that of Peppy Miller, a beautiful young actress, is on the rise, but can true love win out when their careers are headed in different directions?

There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe this film, it really is wonderful, and tellingly the fact that it’s not in widescreen, is in black and white and has practically no dialogue is quickly forgotten as the soundtrack and the wonderful cinematography draw you in, as do the performances. Dujardin does superbly to imbue a character that in other hands could have been unlikeable, and plays everything from arrogant pride to broken despair, and every time Bejo smiles it’s like someone turned the sun up a notch. Throw in Stalwarts like John Goodman and James Cromwell—not to mention Uggie the dog—and you have a cast that might not feature big names, but is perfect in spite (or perhaps because) of this.

But it’s the direction of the film that really makes it, cleverly using the lack of sound to play with our conventions, and there are some truly wonderful shots here; highlights for me are George and Peppy on a staircase, she clearly several steps above him symbolising that her career is on the rise, and a lovely scene where George admires a dinner jacket in a shop window, his own reflection making it seem like he’s wearing it, reminding him of happier times.

If it has a flaw, and I’m reaching here, it’s perhaps that at times George’s fear of talking on screen becomes a little too irrational, and you almost feel like you’ve entered a Twilight Zone world where, in fact, nobody actually talks until talkies come along—but this soon fades, and by the end the reason for George’s reticence is clear.

It isn’t laugh out loud funny, but I was smiling pretty much throughout the film which to me is a more than acceptable trade-off. Clever, witty, emotional, well acted. A film that doesn’t need to be in 3D, doesn’t even need to be in colour, and requires no swearing, nudity, explosions or giant robots to thoroughly entertain you. They say they don’t make ‘em like they used to, but it seems they were wrong.  If you haven’t seen it, why not? 9/10

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