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March 19, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Review – The Artist

  • DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius
  •  STARRING: Jean Dujardin & Berenice Bejopage35image52488page35image52760
page35image53576As an (almost) silent film shot in black-and- white, it would be easy to dismiss The Artist as a mere novelty—an overly-nostalgic tribute to Hollywood’s golden days. This would be wrong. Very wrong.

The Artist introduces us to George Valentin, the biggest silent film star in Hollywood circa 1927. At his latest premiere, he (literally) bumps into Peppy Miller, an aspiring actress. The chemistry between them is immediate, and George arranges for her to be cast in his next production.

With the advent of ‘talkies’ however, George’s stardom begins to wane; “people want new, talking faces,” the studio head sombrely informs him. Meanwhile, Peppy, embracing the new medium, finds her career going from strength to strength. The rest of the film chronicles how George responds to this maelstrom of change, both within the film industry and in his own life.

To a modern audience, the lack of sound can initially be disconcerting. I found myself leaning forward in my seat, waiting for a noise and being slightly put out when it did not arrive. Such consternation quickly passes, though: The Artist sparkles with life, displaying a witty sense of humour and a passion for the song-and-dance of Old Hollywood.

Further, the film treats its audience with a refreshing amount of respect. There are countless opportunities to manipulate the viewers’ heartstrings, but the film refuses to condescend in this way.

There are no sappy scenes of George weeping while big, emotive music plays in the background. Emotion is generated through clever use of symbols and motifs, as well as the wonderful silent acting of Dujardin and Bejo.

The Artist is everything a film should be— clever, dramatic, touching and funny. It deserves every Oscar that it won. I found myself disappointed when it ended, facing the prospect of returning to the real, talking world.

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