The Artist was a triumph at the 2012 Academy Awards, winning five Oscars, including Best Actor for Jean Dujardin. It perhaps was not an obvious candidate for success, being a black and white silent movie. Or maybe that was part of the charm….either way, it was a deserving winner, for showing that excellent films do not always require huge budgets – this was comparatively cheap to make, but provided top-notch entertainment!
The film starts in 1927, and Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a hugely popular silent movie star. Berenice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, a young starlet, just starting out in the movies, who meets Valentin and stars with him briefly in one film. Two years later, and talking films are the new craze, while Valentin is seen as a has-been. Meanwhile, Peppy is finding ever more success in the movie industry. As Valentin falls on hard times, he grows depressed and bitter. But there may be someone who can help him….
Sometimes when films are a novelty of sorts – which a black and white silent film certainly is these days – once the novelty has worn off, there is not much underneath. I’m happy to say that I did not think this was the case whatsoever in this film. Dujardin and Bejo both sparkle in their roles, and have great chemistry and charisma. Peppy (by name and by nature) is adorable, but in the hands of a lesser actress, could easily have just been annoying. Dujardin perfectly captures the fall from grace of George Valentin – adored and revered at first, but he soon becomes yesterday’s news, and he really struggles to cope. And of course, his beloved and loyal dog Uggy, is just adorable!
I did find it quite a strange experience watching a film with no dialogue – it’s just not something that we are used to today, where often snappy and witty dialogue is required. However, The Artist illustrates that you can tell a charming story without speaking – the expressions and movements of the actors, together with the sets, tell the story perfectly.
There are shades of Singin’ In The Rain in this film, dealing as it does with a similar theme – that of talking movies causing problems for silent actors. In fact, in some scenes, Dujardin really does resemble Gene Kelly, and while I don’t know for sure, I am sure that some scenes were a direct nod to the Kelly classic.
Anyway, it’s the kind of film that I think needs to be seen to be appreciated. I would certainly recommend it, and have no doubt that I will be watching it again in the future.
Year of release: 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Producer: Antoine de Cazotte, Daniel Delume, Richard Middleton, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Jeremy Burdek, Nadia Khamlichi, Thomas Langmann, Emmanuel Montamat, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn, Jean Dujardin
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Main cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell