The Artist (2011)

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a bygone idol of a no longer silent era, is watching helplessly as his career trundles to an end. One of his last acts as a beloved Hollywood star is to tutor a young actress named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) following a chance encounter during an impromptu photo-shoot. Despite an undeniable mutual attraction, Valentin lets his pride get the better of him, burning bridges with the young actress and refusing to embrace the encroaching talkies and in the process resigning himself and his upcoming movies to obscurity. Dropped by his studio and abandoned by his wife, Miller is left to grow bitter with only his trusty driver (James Cromwell) and trustier canine for company.

With reports that a number of ignorant Liverpudlians are demanding their money back having not anticipated The Artist being a silent, black and white film from *gasp* a foreign country, it is difficult to argue that Michel Hazanavicius’ darling has indeed been over-hyped. That said, with considerable Oscar buzz and a staggered release which means that everybody – even people who knew nothing about it – saw it before I did, I was worried that the finished product might not live up to my already towering expectations. Despite the best attempts of the world’s worst cinema audience, however, I needn’t have worried.

For, while the novelty of what at first appears to amount to a half-told story does take some getting used to, any initial unease soon gives way as the story’s charms lull you into immersion. There are those who will inevitably complain that the narrative is half-baked and unoriginal, but, just as with Avatar before it, the simplicity of the plot only helps serve to highlight the innovation and creativity on show elsewhere. When the characters are so expressive, the visuals are so striking and the sound design is so counter-intuitively compelling, who really needs a memorable twist or some gaudy gimmickry in order to distract them from the film’s inherent majesty.

Perhaps the biggest joy in The Artist is just the sheer talent on show. Without language barriers to overcome, Hazanavicius was able to pick and choose the performers best suited for the parts at hand. Dujardin and Bejo are both astounding in the lead roles, thriving in the film’s Old Hollywood setting and duly rising to the challenges inherent in making a silent movie. Immensely talented, the performers dabble in dance and tap, all the while imbuing their silent performances with absolute verve and emotion. John Goodman and Malcolm McDowell, meanwhile, simmer in the background, while the film’s secret weapon – a charmingly animate dog – threatens to steal the show from beneath them.

The Artist is quite simply pure cinema; an homage to a storytelling format that is still as relevant today as it has ever been. In an age of CGI and 3D (never mind sound and colour), it is refreshing to see such a stripped back expression of moviemaking that is every bit as capable of telling an arresting story as the latest pixilated popcorn movie. If you want your money back having seen this then there really is nothing left for us to talk about.


About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to The Artist (2011)

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