Film Review: The Artist

By David Rush

Dir: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, Uggie the Dog, John Goodman

Rating: ★★★★★

The premise is one which may leave some people cold: a silent film.  In the case of many film producers at the Cannes Film Festival, The Artist elicited the same reaction, and they quickly rubbished the theory that anyone would want to see it.  However, producer Harvey Weinstein saw potential in Michel Hazanavicius’ whimsical tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema and took a gamble.  It paid off.

Following positive reception at Cannes, universal critical acclaim, and three Golden Globes, including Best Picture and Best Actor, the infectious crowd pleaser at last hit UK screens.

The film tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a popular silent film star whose success on the big screen is contrasted by his painfully loveless marriage to Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), a woman who finds more happiness in defacing photographs of her husband than actually speaking to him.  At the premiere of Valentin’s latest picture, a young fan, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), is inadvertently photographed with her idol, and stardom soon beckons.  However, for Valentin, the silent days are over as his producer, Al Zimmer (John Goodman), tells him.  Talking pictures begin to take over the market and a defiant Valentin sees his star begin to fall.

It is difficult to dislike any aspect of The Artist.  The production design and black and white cinematography are flawless and wonderfully recreate a bygone era of filmmaking.  Dujardin and Bejo make for charming leads – faithfully supported by Uggie, who plays Valentin’s dog, Jack, and all but steals the show – and manage to capture the essence of the silent era style of acting.

Although perhaps a tough sell to people used to seeing Hollywood blockbusters as well as those who shy away from black and white films, regardless, Hazanavicius’ love letter to cinema definitely has wide appeal.  A high energy film full of heart, laughter and excitement, The Artist is a must see.

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