I heard about The Artist several weeks ago and was immediately intrigued, so much so, that I was front of the queue for the opening night showing at the Queen’s Film Theatre.
PLOT: George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie star of the late 1920’s who finds himself left behind after his studio switches to talking pictures. In a last attempt to keep the silent film industry alive George writes, directs and stars in his own production which fails at the Box Office causing George to lose everything but his loyal dog Jack. As his situation worsens he is helped out by Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) the young star who has taken his place at the top of Hollywood. END PLOT
The plot of The Artist unashamedly follows the beats of any “comeback” story. In a traditional Hollywood film this may pose a problem but as The Artist is a silent film the simplistic plot serves it well. The running time of 100mins was long enough to allow the story to be told without over staying its welcome.
Despite the story itself being basic it was cleverly told with there being numerous impressive set pieces and moments of genuine humour. There was a nice little joke about the “mugging” that comes with silent acting and it was used to show just how outdated and silly silent movies were becoming now that sound was being used. Any instances of overacting were purely intentional.
Dujardin and Bejo were fantastic as George and Peppy with both actors oozing charisma and charm. They were able to portray all emotions without speaking and they made it look effortless. The success of The Artist lies with its casting.
Although the human cast cannot be faulted they were regularly upstaged by Jack, George’s pet dog who would give Eddie from Frasier a run for his money.
The score also played an important role and was essentially a character in its own right. There were a couple of decent little themes running through it and it’s the first time in a long while that I have been consciously aware of enjoying listening to the score at the same time as watching a film for the first time.
Filmed in black and white and using the old square “Academy ratio” (thank you IMDB) The Artist was a throwback to the silent films of old in every way possible.
As much as I loved this film I hope that The Artist does not open the door for a new wave of silent films. The film was extremely enjoyable but there is potential for a new trend in silent films which will in all likelihood turn into an overused gimmick.
I would find it unreasonable not to give The Artist a 10/10 as it was the most unique cinema experience I have had in a long time. The Artist is completely different to the normal fare which is released in January and this has very much worked in its favour.