The Artist: Reviewed

Your Local Guardian: The Artist The Artist

If I recommend that you go and see a movie that is set in the 1920’s about Hollywood’s golden era of silent films and the evolution of the talking picture. You would probably raise your eyebrows and say “Ok I’ll give it a try”. But if I said, by the way the film is made in black and white and in the style of the old silent movies complete with decorative intertitles displaying the actors’ words on the screen and every action is accentuated by a musical score. Oh! And the director and two leading actors are all French. You would probably take a great deal of persuading.

Therefore I am urging you now to go and see this movie. In this age of prequels, sequels and 3D images it’s a nice feeling to be pleasantly surprised by a film maker (Michel Hazanavicius) who is not frightened of taking a big risk.

‘The Artist’ script has clearly been inspired by two other successful movies ‘A Star is Born’ and ‘Singing in the Rain’ but Hazanavicius makes this film his own and it looks as though it could actually have been made in the silent era.

French film star Jean Dujardin plays screen idol George Valentin, a cross between Douglas Fairbanks and John Gilbert, with a little dash of Rudolph Valentino thrown in. George evokes escapism through his swashbuckling characters and the public are flocking to his movies, life is good.

Through an accident of fate George literally bumps into a young wannabe actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) and there is an instant attraction. George gives Peppy the opportunity to work as an extra in his next movie and for this break she is eternally grateful.

Suddenly with the revelation of talking pictures the Studio decides to stop making silent films and concentrate on the new future of movie making. Unfortunately George does not embrace the new medium and despite making mountains of cash for Studio boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) they no longer have any use for him and he finds himself out on the street. At the same time Peppys’ career flourishes and she becomes a huge star.

Jean Dujardin just oozes charisma with his blinding smile, the grace of Gene Kelly and that Errol Flynn twinkle in his eye. Dujardin won best actor award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where the film was warmly received. His co-star Berenice Bejo (wife of the Director Michel Hazanavicius) also puts in a stunning performance. The French trio have previously worked together in the French cinema and have this great chemistry.

Although there are speech frames occasionally inserted between the live action sequences they are used quite sparingly. Much of what the audience take in is from the actors performance and facial expression mouthing the dialogue. The silent rules are only broken a couple of times, one of which is a clever use of the sound of everyday objects in a dream sequence. Apart from John Goodman, the other American actor to watch out for is James Cromwell (LA Confidential, Babe) who plays Clifton, George’s chauffeur who sticks by him through thick and thin. However, the actor who totally steals the whole show is a little Jack Russell terrier who is George’s other co-star and extremely loyal companion.

Above all the film is a love story and a lesson in humanity. It will take you through a gamut of different emotions and you will come out feeling a better person for having seen this film.

You probably guessed that I kind of liked it?

Five gold stars from me.

In cinemas from December 30, 2011

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