FIVE STARS The arrival of talking movies threatens the career of a Hollywood superstar.
COMEDY DRAMA FRANCE/BELGIUM Silent #THEARTIST
Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo
If you think that a silent, black and white movie about a troubled 1920’s film star is about as appealing as a subtitled, angst-ridden, East-Europen art flick, think again. For THE ARTIST is a warm, generous and funny exploration of the human condition and one of the best film you’ll see all year (a big call in February). For some, it’s the best film you’ll ever see. What's more it also has this year's Oscar winning performance from a dog. Sorry Snowy.
George Valentin (Dujardin) is a mega-star of silent cinema whose career hits the skids with the arrival of talkies. Sound, he says, is a fad and what’s more, the man can’t find his voice. But as his star crashes, that of young Peppy Miller (Bejo), a beauty who once danced in a Valentin movie, is on the rise and when she embraces the new, her star goes supernova. George hits rock bottom but Peppy is there to catch him.
THE ARTIST is a relatively straight-forward warning about the dangers of pride hooked to a tale of the inevitability of true love. It's a beautiful valentine to silent films (shot in soft-focus 4:3 aspect ratio with title cards and era-appropriate credits - stunning) that, without a word, effortlessly entertains for its entire 100 minute runtime. This is partly due to impressive staging, technical achievement and outstanding direction by Hazanavicius. Not only does his terrific script perfectly capture the mood of the times, but drives past mere homage to deliver a fully realised story with all the emotional highs and lows of the best romantic, comedy drama.
However it's the phenomenal performance by the appealing Dujardin that brings this film home. His physical range is extraordinary as he silently conveys the roller coaster ride of stardom, and the chaos of his own personal life. Small wonder he has collected gongs from Cannes through the Globes to Oscar. Eye-catching support from John Goodman, James Cromwell and Uggie the dog simply make things better.
THE ARTIST is the rarest of rare: a Hollywood gem and a true five star film.