Published on January 19th, 2012 | by Jen McShane0
Silence Is Golden… Movie Review: The Artist
It’s the film that has charmed audiences and critics alike across the globe and all without uttering a single word. For many, it’s simply the best film of the year. The Artist proves that so much can be said by saying so little.
This tender, witty, charming film, which pays tribute to the classic silent movie era in Hollywood, is the best thing to hit our screens in a long long time. Sound like an exaggeration? Then you haven’t seen the film! Since premiering at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last year, the hype surrounding the film has been huge and luckily, it does not fall foul of the hype. Having scored big at this year’s Golden Globe awards with three wins and numerous BAFTA nominations just announced, The Artist has captured us, and indeed Hollywood, like no film has done in years. It’s surely a shoo-in for Oscar glory.
The story is a variation on the theme from A Star Is Born. An older, established star helps a talented young woman on the path to fame, only to see his career decline as she hits the big time. It is 1927, and George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin, is a dashing and lovably preposterous silent movie star, endowed with hyper-real handsomeness and eyebrows and mustache, reminiscent of the era gone by. His trademark is always to appear on screen in the company of his little dog, Uggie, who is so adorable you couldn’t not mention him.
The movie opens with us seeing Valentin at the premiere of his latest film ‘A Russian Affair.’ The Russian baddies are seen torturing his character in the opening scene, trying to make him talk. But he will not talk, thus setting the scene for his future and the future of the film. Valentin is at the top of his game when we meet him, the Gene Kelly of silent movies, but when The Talkies are introduced things slowly start to go downhill.
Early on, he meets and falls in love with Peppy Miller, played by the beautiful Bérénice Bejo. She wins a part in his next film and from then on embraces the new wave of Talkies. Audiences can’t get enough of her voice (which we never hear) but Valentin goes the opposite way. He remains stubborn, refusing to talk for fear that this will take away his artistry, and like Chaplin he decides to buck the trend and continue making silent films, writing, directing and financing his own work.
But its not to be. While Peppy becomes a huge star, Valentin, still refusing to talk, becomes yesterday’s news. All Peppy can do is look anxiously on and tries her best to help the star get back in the limelight once again. The humor and romance of the film are handled lightly but work wonderfully, and the audience will be drawn in by the beautiful silence of it all. No words are needed when it comes to our two stars; it is a joy to simply watch them on screen. French director Michel Hazanavicius has done his job perfectly; in the odd time that we do hear any sound, it seems invasive, like it just shouldn’t be there. This helps us empathise completely with the unfortunate situation George Valentin finds himself in, and it’s blissful when silence descends once again.
The film is awash with an array of references that culture fans will get giddy from, but you don’t need to pick up on these to enjoy the film. The film’s final scene, which I won’t spoil for those of you that have yet to see it, shows us everything that cinema is capable of which no other art form can touch. You’ll be left feeling light-hearted and smiling from ear to ear, the only disappointment being that it’s all over. This is a film drained of colour and sound, yet this lack is what makes the film so wonderful. If you see nothing else, you must see The Artist, a shining example of the fact that they can still make them like they used to, and no words are needed.