For most, The Artist will seem like the most unlikely form of entertainment: a silent (no spoken dialogue) black-and-white French film that pays homage to classic 1930’s Hollywood. Call it a gimmick if you like but The Artist, which took home five Oscars, seven British Academy Awards, and three Golden Globes, was easily one of the top five movies of 2011. Overflowing with passion, charm and wit, we haven’t really seen anything like it in recent years. There is little room for argument, Michel Hazanavicius’s novelty film is both artful and charming.
Nearly two lifetimes ago audiences swarmed cinemas to see silent-movie champions; Charlie Chaplin, Max Linder, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd give their heart and souls to movies that are now long forgotten. The Artist, like most of the Oscar nominated pictures of last year, like Hugo and Midnight in Paris, takes its audience on a journey of nostalgia, teaching valuable lessons on film along the way.
The double-barrel storyline tells the story of a famous Hollywood leading man’s relationship with a young hopeful actress seeking fame and also the transition from American silent movies to talkies (similarly to the way 2-D film is being replaced by digital 3D images today). The film starts off with George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) at the height of his career, audiences just love everything he is part of, posing for pictures outside the premiere of his last film, A Russian Affair. An aspiring actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), with a hundred-watt smile, accidentally bumps into him and becomes a star overnight when newspapers turn the story into front page news. Not long after Peppy is auditioning to be a part of his next film. George takes Peppy under his wing and an undeniable spark develops between the two. But when the new “talkies” fad hits George is left without work and Peppy’s career elevates to new heights.
It’s not so much the audacity of The Artist that makes it great, but rather the appeal of its actors. Jean Dujardin’s performance is unforgettable and his wide smile irresistible. The same can be said about Bérénice Bejo, who matches Dujardin’s charisma every step along the way. Yet, the real show stealer is a hilarious and spirited Jack Russell terrier, named Uggie. It’s hard not to love Uggie. He is as much as a character in The Artist as any one of the two-legged actors.
Although it is extremely lighthearted and feel-good at its core, The Artist does have a few really dark moments that involve suicide and death. Of course, all this is overshadowed by its humour and fun-loving characters. The Artist is worth its weight in gold. It is a great movie filled with unforgettable moments.