A film that brings modern day audiences back to the golden age of cinema.
The Artist is a rare cinematic treat as it takes place in the early days of Hollywood. The year is 1927 and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest star in the silent film world. One day, a fan named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) attends a premiere and accidentally bumps into George as he is signing autographs and taking pictures for the press. George simply brushes off the interaction and begins to pose with Peppy as the newspapers snap photos. After this encounter with George, Peppy becomes the talk of the town. She is almost instantly made into a film star but unfortunately for George, the studios have decided to switch to “talkies” and suspend all silent film productions. Now out of a job, George struggles with the direction that his life is headed as this new age of cinema begins to unravel.
I heard nothing but positive buzz about this film before going to see it and I have to admit I missed so many early screenings for it as well at various film festivals screenings. Luckily, it had a screening last week down in Philadelphia, which I was able to see and I would be lying if I didn’t agree with all the top critics who have stated that this is one of the best films of year. The Artist is one of those rare films that if you are a true fan of cinema, you cannot help but love this movie. Why? Because it looks and feels just like a film from the early age of cinema and pays its respect to film history.
The movie captures the year 1927 perfectly. Writer and director Michel Hazanavicius really knows what he is doing behind the camera and it shows as he crafts an amazing film. Hazanavicius shot the film entirely in 4:3 as well as in black and white. The movie is also predominately silent. All these techniques have not been seen on the big screen in years and some critic friends of mine have labeled it gimmicky, which is somewhat true but this is only one element of what makes this movie so unique and appealing to film lovers everywhere
The Artist is like a trip through the history of cinema. Most film buffs know that movies started as silent film, but this film takes you through that transition period from silent films to talking pictures. The struggle of an actor going from being a silent film star and trying to move into talking pictures is just as relevant as an aging star today trying to keep an onscreen presence (think Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro) today. Top that off with the story itself, that is so incredibly simple, but works so perfectly to tell this story. It goes to show that studios nowadays spend so much on making scripts so complex and elaborate that a good simple story can still really sell a film.
Its hard to really complain about anything about the film at all. Its pacing is near perfection. All the stars although they don’t have to speak their lines, do a fine job acting and make the audience fall in love with them as they understand their happiness and struggles. I think this element in itself makes this film a cut above the rest. You feel for characters who don’t have a voice, but rather just text as dialogue that doesn’t even appear all too often. Goodman, Dujardin,and Bejo all shine in this film and keep stealing the scenes from one another. No character in this film including the cute little dog is unnecessary as they all serve as an important part to the plot. How many films today can you say that about?
The one thing I do wonder about this film, however, is how good of a movie would be without it being silent. I think the story is strong enough to be a good film, but it was the silent element as well as the black and white element that really make it stick out since its those elements that makes it feel authentic. Its one of those rare films that I think is perfect just the way it is and if any changes were to occur it would lose the effect it had on its audience.
At the end of the day, I don’t really know if The Artist will have a mainstream appeal, but for those who love cinema as I do, you should definitely check this out. It is without a doubt one of the best films of the year and will more than likely win several awards at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. It’s perfectly directed, feels authentic, and the acting is superb. This is one of those films that years from now will be referenced in film history courses and be one that many will look back at and still think of highly. If you pair this film up with Hugo, 2011 presents two solid films that tackle the magic of film-making and why so many have fallen in love with the magic of film making in the first place.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Artist is a 9 out of 10.