The Artist film review

By Emma Brooks

I don’t go regularly to the cinema, but I do go more than once or twice a year if that’s much to go by. Films seen this year at the cinema include X-Men First Class, The King’s Speech and Black Swan amongst others. But really, the film that caught my attention the most this year is The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius.

I hadn’t heard of it but luckily for me, my cinephile friends insisted we go see it not long ago. I was of course a little hesitant when I found out that the film was a silent movie in black and white, and filmed in the old square format that hasn’t been used for ages. But I was ready to try it out and see what the main actor Jean Dujardin (famous in France) had to offer.

I was completely blown away by the movie, and went to see it a second time I enjoyed it so much. In an age when 3-D movies and special effects are rife, an old fashioned movie is not boring but on the contrary rather refreshing. Not wasting time with useless dialogues and bad acting, the film succeeds on many different levels.

For a start, the actors are outstanding. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo both deliver incredible acts, portraying their characters well through the silence of the movie, and allowing for the spectator to empathise with them and understand their stories from beginning to end. The fact that they must rely entirely on their visual acting skills (facial expressions, interacting with each other and the camera) really drives home their talent as well as the talent of the film itself.

Not only that, but Hazanavicius has understood that music plays a very important role in conveying emotions in a film. Of course, we all know the classic type of music used in horror movies to create a feeling of dread, or the type of music used in sad moments to make us tear up. But the use of music in The Artist drives home exactly how much can be expressed through music alone. Reflecting the actors’ feelings or the atmosphere of a certain moment, the soundtrack enhances the whole “silent” experience.

Second of all, the story is also a very touching one. The Artist tells the story of Hollywood actor George Valentin (Dujardin) who has built his career and success on silent movies. But as the era of “talkies” comes along, he finds himself sidelined and no longer wanted. On the other hand, Peppy Miller (Bejo) a girl he meets on set as an extra, turns out to have an increasingly successful career as a speaking film actress.

We are incredibly moved by the story of Valentin, and it is indeed a sad story that is told. We watch him as he loses everything he has around him, and watches the friendly Peppy Miller rise to success at his expense. But the film does overwhelmingly well in captivating the attention until the very end. An added bonus is Valentin’s dog, a little Jack Russel, who practically steals the fame right out from under him. An adorable perfomance that will also be remembered.

Reminiscent of films such as Sunset Boulevard and Singing in the Rain, The Artist pays tribute to an entirely different era of films than the one we are in now. It has been met with great success already, and according to an article by Tim Masters has been tipped to win an Oscar in 2012.

The Artist will be my film of the year for 2011, and one I would definitely recommend you see. It will be in theatres in the UK on the 6 January 2012, and not to worry – the speech slides are in English so you won’t have to brush up on your French first.

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