Every once in a while an absolute gem of a film is made and this is truly one of them. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to see a movie. I have been waiting several weeks in anticipation. This was to be a film like no other of its time…black and white and silent. No special effects, no 3-D, no motion-capture – just old- (very old) fashioned filmmaking celebrating a love of art. My expectations were high and they were surpassed.
The Artist starts in the late 1920s and follows the story of George Valentin, a silent-movie star, whose life and career is turned upside down with the introduction of sound into the movies. The impact that this had on cinema is shown to brilliant effect as Valentin experiences a surreal nightmare in which everyone and everything makes a sound except him. It makes you realise what the introduction of sound meant for cinema – it wasn’t just about people talking, but about chairs falling, dogs barking and the wind blowing.
The film is masterfully handled by French director Michel Hazanavicius, always cleverly hinting at things to come as Valentin plays a character who declares “I shall not speak” and later on sees him walking past a movie house showing a film entitled Lonely Star.
Having loved silent films such as Nosferatu and The Phantom of the Opera, it is amazing to be reminded, with The Artist, how much can be conveyed without words. Jean Dujardin perfectly captures Valentin’s emotional turmoil without ever being melodramatic. Berenice Bejo is an absolute delight to watch as the sweet and perky new starlet Peppy Miller. The absolute scene-stealer, however, is Uggie the dog. Never leaving Valentin’s side, he strongly reinforces the film’s themes of loyalty and devotion.
Ironically the film holds up a mirror to present-day Hollywood where new technology is changing the way that films are made. This film is a reminder to celebrate and remember the old, yet embrace the new in an effort to create something even more wonderful and remember that what creates great art is the passion driving it.
Above all, it is a story about human relations and emotions told so poignantly and charmingly that I had tears pouring down my cheeks. In following a man’s passion for his art this film, in turn, has become a work of art…moreover, a genuine masterpiece.
Originally published on Dinner and a Movie