The Artist (2012)
Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman
A film review by Keeva Stratton
The Artist is an Oscar frontrunner that echoes the past—it’s a French film that deals with the advent of ‘talkies’ in the silent film era. As a modern interpretation of a silent film, this homage to late twenties cinema follows the popular silent film actor, George Valentin, who refuses to join the talkie revolution—and in so doing effectively ends his career. Just prior to the demise of his film career, Valentin helps the young actress, Peppy Miller, land her big break, and in a painful twist he soon realises that she is to set become the new screen juggernaut that will leave him in her wake.
Peppy continues to hold a flame for Valentin, and tries desperately to change his mind about his place in this new world of talkies, but Valentin’s pride is his enemy and he refuses to accept her help, leading him into a dark and dire place.
The Artist is over-the-top, vivacious and full of cinematic lustre. Stealing the show is the truly delightful performance of Valentin’s canine companion—a tiny dog that provides what would be an Oscar-winning performance, if ‘best actor (animal)’ were a recognised category. Bérénice Bejo, as Peppy, is also a delight on screen (and her costumes are exquisite).
The only hesitation this film carries has to do with its novelty feel. While the silent film experience is much harder to come by these days (though there are plenty of wonderful festivals that tend to pop up from time to time), the choice to create a silent film in the post-silent (Dolby Digital) era felt a little overly deliberate.
If the effect was to resemble John Cage’s famed 4:33 (where the pianist sat silently at his piano for four minutes and 33 seconds so as to bring an acute consciousness to the listening audience), then its task is achieved. Rarely these days are you as aware of your fellow audience members’ laughter (and food consumption) as you are with this film.
All in all, The Artist is a sweet film that evokes a sense of nostalgia for a time in Hollywood when glamour and ego ruled in abundance, and the magic of cinema was poised to take a leap and bound forward, with the coming of sound.
The Artist deserves a solid three and a half stars for fun, and will be in cinemas from Feb 2.