A refreshing film so beautifully made that it’s easy to be enchanted by its simplicity. You may wrinkle your nose up and be tempted to give up on it when you realise that it’s a silent film depicting the era when silent films were being replaced by ‘talkies’. But I encourage you to persist in watching this magic unfold with beautiful imagery that has been skilfully crafted by a talented crew. French director, Michel Hazanavicius’s vision was explicitly carried out with exquisite costumes, sets, and impressive cinematography by Guillaume Schiffman. My favourite shot was when Valentin pours his drink over the glass table. Such creativity.
The story is simple yet captivating – enriched by fine acting from Jean Dujardin who won an academy award for Best Actor, and Bérénice Bejo, nominated for an academy award. I have to give special mention to Uggie, Valentin’s dog, who no doubt stole many hearts as the unsung hero in the film. Dujardin plays the role of George Valentin, mega star of silent pictures who is mercilessly dumped by the studio head, Al Zimmer, played by John Goodman, when ‘talkies’ become the next ‘hot ticket’. By this time, Peppy Miller, played by Bejo has risen to fame, from an extra to a leading lady, with the help of Valentin.
The film is not just about the end of silent films, and the end of an actor’s career, but about loyalty, pride, change, despair, triumph and tragedy, and finding hope through love. That is what brings colour to this beautiful black and white film. It also honours the beautiful architecture, costumes, fashion, cars, and elegance of an era long gone. It is ironic that this film has won so much acclaim in this modern world we live in, where the old is tossed aside, as Valentin was, only to be revived by someone who cared enough to see the value of showing the newer generations the evolution of technology and the stability of human love, (let’s not forget the loyalty of man’s best friend).
Our world is so noisy and busy that it takes a little while to adjust to the film’s lack of dialogue. The importance of music is clearly apparent in helping the film to flow as there was a moment where there was no sound whatsoever and it stuck out like a sore thumb. It’s strange how complete silence can make us feel abnormal. It is also a lesson to scriptwriters, that copious dialogue does not enhance a film and is completely unnecessary. Skilled actors can tell a story with expressions and body language. The Artist is a pleasant surprise and another gem to be added to the collection of classic films. I encourage you to watch it, after all, it was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture, and Best Director. Jacq’s rating: 4 out of 5