Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Artist: Review

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman

This French/Belgian production has swiftly gone from a hyped indie darling to Oscar front-runner for good reason. The Weinstein Company took a gamble by giving their backing to a black-and-white, silent movie but the visual flair of Hazanavicius and the extraordinary chemistry of stars Bejo and Dujardin make this easily one of the most entertaining and charming films of recent years.

The Artist tells the tale of George Valentin (Dujardin), a much-loved 1920s silent movie star who is faced with becoming obsolete as Hollywood begins to embrace “talkie” films. He befriends a young starlet called Peppy Miller (Bejo) whose career begins its meteoric rise just as George’s begins to fade.

On the surface, a contemporary silent movie about a silent movie star could easily be accused of being gimmicky and pretentious but this is never the case. The viewer may need a few moments to adjust to a film devoid of dialogue and sound effects but the expressive, physical perfomances of the leads and the cute narrative will soon leave you utterly enthralled.

The romantic backbone to the story is classic and understated, taking inspiration from Hollywood’s golden age while feeling fresh and easily relatable for modern audience. Without dialogue, Dujardian and Bejo rely on stolen glances and brief moments of contact to convey their feelings. A scene involving multiple takes of a dance for one of Valentin’s silent films will leave you beaming.

The film works equally well as a comedy, taking a leaf out of the physical, gurning performances of the silent movie era. Most of the comedy comes from the undoubted star of the show: Valentin’s ever-faithful canine sidekick. Played by Uggie the dog, it is surely the best film performance by an animal in recent memory.

The Artist is a film of very few weaknesses. Boasting a superb score, star-making performances and accomplished and unique production, it is more than deserving of the attention it has received.

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