The Artist

  • 2011-12-15
  • By Laurence Boyce

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

A massive hit when it premiered at the 2011 Cannes Festival, this homage to the silent era of cinema is set to delight audiences of all ages and may well pick up one or two Oscars on the way.

Suave silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin, who manages to be brilliantly charming without a word of dialogue) is the hit of Hollywood thanks to his good looks and entertaining films. Even though he’s stuck in a loveless marriage, he manages to enjoy life and flirting with girls including the aspiring actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). But thanks to the introduction of sound and the look for new heartthrobs, Valentin drops out of the public eye. Soon his star is faded whilst Miller’s is on the rise. Soon their lives will interconnect as Hollywood changes beyond recognition.

Make no mistake about it, this is a wonderful film that celebrates not only the history of cinema but how – in an age of computer trickery – films can still tell a simple story that is hugely affecting. Shot beautifully in black and white, the film has (almost) no dialogue or sound effects (but when they do come they are used to brilliant effect). It relies on a simplistic – but wonderfully engaging – story that is full of humor and pathos. Undeniably, Hazanavicius can stage some wonderful set-pieces (such as a brilliant mid-film dream sequence) and – combined with acting that manages to compensate for the lack of dialogue without becoming too over-the-top – he really manages to capture the spirit of the silent era. Yet the film never feels old fashioned thanks to the clever way in which it manages to be both a celebration and parody of films past.

With echoes of the likes of “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Sunset Boulevard” (though with less of the darkness of the latter) this is an absolute treat.


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