Film Review – The Artist

The Artist (PG)

Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

Much like the recent Hugo, The Artist is a love letter to a particular period of film making. Hugo gushed when it came to the pioneering days, while The Artist wears its heart on its sleeve for the time when silent films were edged out by the talkies. While the addition of sound revolutionised the industry, it is no secret many were affected and hit hard by it-namely the silent film stars. Those whose popularity was not based on what they sounded like.

It was a scary transition for some, but especially for Hollywood star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who made a successful career out of mugging for the camera. But when the technology to record sound came along, coupled with the Great Depression hitting in 1929, it was trying times for the charming performer.

Thinking sound in films was a joke and seeing his audience and fan numbers drop, George decides not to adapt to the changes but to try his hand at directing. The failure of his over-produced action romance sends him into a spiral of depression.

When day player and former co-star Peppy Miller’s (Berenice Bejo) star rises to the point where she becomes a Hollywood sweetheart, George becomes inconsolable. Her screen presence and mega watt personality bring her a lot of attention, the kind George once had. The fact they fancy each other just makes it even more unbearable.

What begins as a cheery, utterly delightful and deliciously authentic silent film – film goers be warned, there is no sound, dialogue is written across the screen and it retains a 4:3 aspect ratio – it soon loses its cool. While a fascinating study of how the golden era of cinema took a hit and recovered, it takes itself far too seriously in the second half. Forty-five minutes of a moping George is not so much fun.

The Artist means well, is technically well made with some stunning sequences (a favourite is the montage that tracks Peppy’s rise to fame by following the placement of her credit in each film she appears in) and contains terrific comedic and dramatic performances, but the tonal imbalance is a hindrance. It is no surprise the Academy has slathered oscar nominations on Hugo and The Artist – they tend to love it when films are about their own industry – but in my mind, one outshines the other.

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One Response to “Film Review – The Artist”

  1. Brilliant review, i really enjoyed the read, well done! Take a look at mine when you have the chance! Cheers: http://conordcfc.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/film-review-the-artist/

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