The Artist

19 Feb

Director: Michel Hazanavicus (2012)

I would have loved to have been in the meeting when Hazanavicus first pitched his idea to the investors. A silent film, in a market where film has been diluted to a collection of moving images of familiar faces articulated by some shocking template pop song – and usually only visible if wearing ridiculous glasses trying to convince us that everything is better when it is jumping out of the screen. In reality, there is nothing that makes me want to jump out of the cinema more than a 3D tag.

Thankfully The Artist is almost the complete opposite, rewinding back to the golden age of cinema – silent film. From the first frame, as the orchestra swoons, so does the audience as we are immersed into a world of glamour and grace of Hollywood, 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a movie star, one of those dashing poster boys with a cheeky smile and a glint, whose extensive show reel has seen him play everything from a swashbuckler to a jungle explorer. At the premiere of his latest film, he revels amongst his screaming hoards of female fans eager for a glimpse of the glint. Well we imagine they’re screaming…it’s a silent film…but it’s implied.

Amidst the schmoozing, our equally cheeky soon-to-be leading lady, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), bumps into George and is snapped by the paps planting a smacker on his cheek. Spurred by the ensuing media attention on this mystery girl, Peppy auditions as an extra at the studio and so begins her rise to fame.

The story is a simple one, the veteran versus the new face united by the love of their job but torn apart by the push of the suits from above eager to drive the industry into the next century. Of course it’s not helped that the face of the talkies, threatening to silence silent film for good, is the rather delightful visage of Peppy Miller. There is obviously the inevitable love story between our two protagonists but instead of being a superficial afterthought, the chemistry between George and Peppy that is so essential in the absence of words, speaks so much louder than the clichéd one liners we are subjected to in so many romantic films. The Artist has a breezy kind of comedy, nods to the audience and teethy grins but we are drawn in, embracing the glamour and pizzazz of old days Hollywood where going to the cinema was a treat and social occasion. Again, hearing the laughter of fellow cinema goers usually drowned out by soundtrack is a refreshing and only adds to the experience.

Every single moment of The Artist shines and shimmers proving you do not need saturated colours and tack to dazzle on the screen. You do need a fantastic wardrobe department. Something which literally left me perpetually stunned throughout the film. It certainly helps that Bejo is breathtakingly beautiful but each of her plentiful costume changes is filled with drop waists and sequins and perfectly coiffed hair. The silence of the cinema only added to this as gasps were repeatedly heard as Peppy danced and sparkled in these stunning creations.

While the main characters are relatively unknown, there are so many surprise guests throughout including John Goodman, Beth Grant and James Cromwell it’s clear that when word got out that some crazy Frenchman was making a silent film, everyone wanted to get involved. And who wouldn’t? With The Artist already scooping Best Actor awards for its cast, winning seven of its twelve BAFTA nominations including Best Film, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay and nominated for the same and others at the Oscars, an original review of The Artist is almost futile. Just go. And if you’ve already been, go again.

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