Star rating – 9/10
For once - a film that lives up to the hype that surrounds its release. ‘The Artist’ is a glorious, uplifting, funny, clever and innovative film that deserves the praise and Oscar nods it is getting. And it serves as a timely lesson that to be original and innovative, you can ironically, sometimes reinvent the wheel.
I was slightly dubious and sceptical about a black and white silent film capturing my attention for an hour and forty minutes, but it does it with such charm and joy that it is a delight to watch. French director Michel Hazanavicius has made a homage to Hollywood which is stylistically as good as, and damn near identical to, anything produced in the silent era of the silver screen. It nods to so many wonderful Hollywood films, moments and actors that I almost lost count, and some allusions were more subtle than others. But my overriding feeling was akin to the warm glow that I get from watching Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’.
Jean Dujardin is excellent as George Valentin, a huge film star of the silent era who accidentally bumps into a beautiful young girl Peppy Miller, again wonderfully performed by Berenice Bejo, and a charming story ensues. The action follows the decline of the silent star, and the parallel rise of Miller in the amazing new talking pictures. Both Dujardin and Bejo are captivating screen idols, and with the camera on their faces in close up for so much of the time, their roles are as demanding as in talking roles. There is another star of the film in the shape of Valentin’s wonderfully cute and clever little dog, who is beside him for every step of his journey.
The score is beautiful, the story line simple but touching. It is not faultless though – I would say it was slightly over long in the latter stages, and Dujardin is certainly no Gene Kelly in the dancing department. But any film that has the audience breaking out into a round of applause at the end has to be a bit special, and that is exactly what 'The Artist' is.