As The Artist opens, we find ourselves in a cinema somewhere in Hollywood in the mid-twenties watching a silent film where the hero rescues the girl and saves the day. Below the screen, and in front of the captivated audience, an orchestra pushes the visuals towards the rousing climax. Behind the screen wanders the movie's star, George Valentin (Dujardin), a pencil-moustachioed Valentino type whose confident smile says it all - this movie, his latest in long line of smashes, is going to be another hit. The movie ends, the crowd applaud and Valentin emerges to greet his fans... But what's this? Still no sound?
Yip, it's a silent movie about a silent movie star. But wait - it's actually really good. Read on!
When he bumps into aspiring actress Peppy Miller (Bejo) sparks fly and Valentin uses his star weight to sway unsure studio mogul Al Zimmer (Goodman) to cast her in his next picture. However, with the advent of the talkie, Valentin's glory days are coming to an end and, stubbornly refusing to make the transition into sound, he is forced to watch (and listen) as Peppy becomes the biggest star in Hollywood…
In the era of slap bang wallop LOUD franchise movies largely pitched at teens who really only want something to watch while they eat their popcorn, it's a brave move to release a silent black-and-white film for adults. So kudos to director Hazabavicius for that. Bravery, however, will only get you so far – the movie has to be good too. There's more kudos in the offing as only one week into the new year and The Artist is contender for movie of the year.
Showing how little is needed to tell an engaging story, the existence of this stripped back and simple drama is an embarrassment for most contemporary film. What it also showcases, and it's something that goes unnoticed more often than not today, is the importance of music; with no dialogue to help the visuals along, Ludovic Bource's score needed to be something special. It is. Chalk up one Oscar right now.
With its retro opening credits, title cards and sumptuous black-and-white cinematography, Hazanavicius strives to ape the look and feel of the silent era. However, the director refuses to be constrained by the bulky static cameras of the time and moves his camera (behind which cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman works hard to make every shot iconic) willy-nilly; it gives the film the freedom of movement, updating the era somewhat, that the films he wishes to pay homage to didn't enjoy.
A riches to rags story that's heavy on the melodrama, the plot might not be the most original in the world but The Artist is strangely affecting, managing to balance wit, heart and a tongue in cheek humour throughout. It helps too when the little-known leads - Dujardin and Bejo - are so likeable. Go rent this.
Story by Gavin Burke | 17:02 | Tuesday 29th May 2012 | DVD review
No comments have been posted for this article yet. Be the first!
Log in to leave a comment
The opinions expressed here are those of the viewer and do not reflect those of Entertainment.ie. Entertainment.ie accepts no responsibility, legal or otherwise, for their accuracy of content. Please contact us to report abusive content