Title: The Artist
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller
This is a magical film! Simply stated, there’s not much really more to say but to say that “The Artist” is a magical movie. It takes what people love about movies and it’s early days, and puts that landscape and elements and infuses them with an innocent and charming love story. By matching the style, subject matter and the passion into one film seems like a gigantic undertaking but filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius makes it look effortless and powerful.
Taking place at the dawn of Hollywood in the late 1920s, it follows the transition of the establishment into the silent era of films into the inception of sound, following a seasoned actor, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and his budding love affair with newcomer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). For George, sound in movies is just a fad and will soon be forgotten but for Peppy, it’s the future. It’s interesting alone to see the transition from one era to another that feels so distinct and can’t help but think about this current era of cinema, 2D to 3D.
Even in 1927, where the film starts off, we can see a correlation between the emergence of 3D today. Will this new technology be the standard in the future? What will happen if actors and filmmakers can’t make that transition like the ones that didn’t back in the early 1930s? I’m not sure what that will mean going forward, but in “The Artist” is gives use warning signs of our uncertain future.
Smartly, “The Artist” is a silent film. It was shot like a silent film, it was acted like a silent film and with all respect to the filmmakers and actors involved, it is a silent film. But what general audiences can hold on to is the love story between the two leads and their on-screen chemistry. Jean Dujardin as George Valentine is charming and suave, while Bérénice Bejo is alluring and hypnotic, you can’t be help but fall in love with them as they fall in love with each other. And for anyone put off by the fact that this film is a silent film, don’t worry, there’s enough here to keep you engaged and thrilled. Hazanavicius may use silent film techniques but ultimately he uses modern conventions with driving a story to be appealing to general audiences of all languages and ages.
Everything in this film, builds up to a certain point and explodes in a fantastic climax that is completely fitting and memorable. The conflict between the old way and and the new way comes to an interesting compromise when both leads decide to display their talents in a joyous manner. And in that way, what will transcend cinema will not be technology but talent and charm on the screen.
This is a darling picture and harkens back to an era of filmmaking that has been forgotten and should be remembered. This film is really the prime example of the power of cinema as a whole in popular culture. Even a film that uses conventions almost 100 years removed can still resinate with audiences today, just as much as they did back in the late 1920s.