Painting a picture of The Artist
9 February 2012
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is a French comedy-drama, filmed completely in black-and-white, and with virtually no dialogue. Paying homage to the classic '20s silent films, Hazanavicius' directing - and with the help of actors Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo - manages to re-capture the charms of classic comedy cinema, and remind audiences of what films can do, and not be.
Set in the late '20s and early '30s, an era of when the monumental introduction of the 'talkies' in Hollywood, the film revolves around the lives of and relationship between a silent movie actor, George Valentin (whose career is declining as a result of sound and the stock-market crash of 1929 ), and the rising stardom of a plucky newcomer, Peppy Miller (who gained fame as a result of the 'talkies' ).
Despite the summarised plot sounding more like a dramatic bore, the moments are kept alive with the constant supply of nostalgic, Chaplin-like comedy; the actors gestures and movements are exaggerated (which is helpful, considering dialogue cannot tell the audience of the situation, yet highly entertaining to watch), and the human cast are accompanied with the help of a clever canine actor, a Jack Russell, who acts as Valentin's quadrupedal sidekick (and who has managed to raise some issues at the Oscars offset ). With the genres cleverly blended together, it's not hard to see as to why the film was nominated for six Golden Globes - more than any other film in 2011 - and won three. And, the list of awards continues into 2012, where it was nominated for 12 BAFTAs and 10 Academy Awards; impressive for the first silent film in almost 90 years.
The silent movie genre was not one I was entertained by, nor one I was expecting to delve into in the near future; however, after watching The Artist, my opinion has been over-turned, and, if all silent movies were like this one, I'm interested to see more. Critically acclaimed, it's a creative and an equally sophisticated piece of filmmaking, which is guaranteed to make audiences smile as much as our clean-cut male protagonist. In fact, you'll probably be smiling as much as the whole full-of-character cast.
Although it may not satisfy all of the tastes (undoubtedly, considering silent movies are outdated and garnering only a small audience to this day ), it is a film that can really only be described as 'a one to try before you judge'. It may have caused some local controversy, regarding the audience not realising what 'The Artist' was and ticket refunds, but, if people allow that to put them off seeing this cinematic treasure, they're missing out on one of the most witty, feel-good movies of the year. Not to mention it being an audial treat, with an orchestra setting the moods of scenes in the traditional - yet effective - way. It's one to keep in mind the next time you visit the cinema.