The Artist is that rare thing: an exuberantly joyous film, both entirely genuine and free from cynicism. Having received near-enough universal acclaim, The Artist is surely guaranteed to find itself deservedly considered for Oscar nomination.
The premise, a black and white silent film, beginning in 1927, set in LA, is laudably brave, both in concept and execution. Depicting the transition from silent films to ‘talkies’, director Michel Hazanavicius, previously known for a number of spoof French films, exhibits a wonderfully deft directorial style, combining moments of real comedy with delightfully realised moments of true pathos.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), an established Hollywood actor at the pinnacle of his career, finds his star begins to wane through his refusal to participate in the new ‘talkies’. As his career begins to pale, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), an aspiring actress who through a chance meeting with George finds the doors of Hollywood begin to open for her, finds the new style of films a gateway to her own success.
The Artist is a film of moments: memorable scenes that together create a simple but heart-felt narrative. As the film begins we witness Valentin along with his co-star and producer waiting behind the cinema screen, hoping and anticipating for the audience’s applause – the joyful look on Valentin’s face, despite the lack of verbal communication, tells us all we need to know.
In a film that relies so heavily upon performance, it would have been easy for lead actors Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo to lean towards comedic pastiche, but both demonstrate performances of exquisite subtlety. The chemistry between the two is almost tangible at times, bringing real pleasure to the scenes they share together.
The Artist is certain to be remembered, refreshingly free from any form of grand political allusions, its characters and their story is as relevant now as it will be in future viewings. During a time in which many directors are heralding and often over-using technical effects, along with the advent of 3D, a film which relies simply upon a uniquely engaging plot is truly far more exciting than any 3D development could every truly be.