A silent black and white film in the age of 3D and IMAX cinema!? The Artist is certainly a novelty, but thankfully it is a beautifully made and perfectly executed one.
The film follows George (Jean Dujardin) the star of the quickly fading silent film era as he struggles with the arrival of the “talkies” film revolution. While still in a star, George meets fan and aspiring actress Peppy (Bérénice Bejo) who he unintentionally gives a huge boost in her realising her dreams – in turn quickening his own demise. However, Peppy never forgets George, and throughout her rise to stardom she does everything she can to help the man she admires above all.
The themes in this film are as old as the medium itself – the rise of one person and the fall of another, the reality of one’s dreams, and change. The theme of feeling left behind as a younger model moves in is universal. You can’t help feel sad for George, but at the same time frustrated that he won’t help himself and embrace the new revolution in film. One scene shows George descending the stairs inside the film company, while Peppy and a young preppy looking man ascend the stars at the same time; a slightly blunt but perfect representation of the story.
Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are receiving much praise for their performances, and it is praise that is well deserved. Dujardin is the definitive image the dashing lead of films past. His luminous smile and expressive eyes really convey what words do not. Bejo is delightful and full of energy, which almost dances of the screen. Praise also must be given to the excellent supporting cast which includes John Goodman as the film studio boss and James Cromwell as Dujardin’s long-time companion and driver. The lovely dog Jack (Uggie) will have you swooning and going “awwww”.
The film cannot be faulted in its construction. The score successfully conveys the mood of the film and draws the audience into the story. The cinematography is superb, and the old-fashioned fade-out cuts are very reminiscent of film editing from another era. All who see the film will not be able to disagree that it is a visual delight and a joy to watch
In the same way which Martin Scorsese’s Hugo can been seen as an ode to cinema, this too is very much a celebration of the cinematic arts and history. While director Michel Hazanavicius states he made the film a silent film because it suited the story, one can’t help but think that this is very much a statement that the old styles of film making can still be relevant and enjoyed. At a time when digital film is slowly pushing out 35mm, this film is rather timely, and the messages certainly resonate.
The Artist is a delightful film which a story that will be understood across all cultures, ages, and languages. Ultimately your enjoyment of the film will depend on your ability to abandon yourself to the nostalgia and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Runtime: 100 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: February 2nd 2012; New Zealand: February 9th 2012
(Note: this review was originally posted on my tumblr)