film review: The Artist (2011)

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The Artist posterIn case you hadn’t heard, The Artist won 3 gongs at the 69th Golden Globe Awards last night – Best Original Score for Ludovic Bource’s work, Best Actor for Jean Dujardin and Best Film – Comedy or Musical. Well done them!

The first I had heard of The Artist was a few months back, maybe about 4 months ago. I was in the cinema (surprise!), either Cineworld or the IFI, when this completely captivating trailer came on.

I don’t usually put trailers in my review but I thought this one warranted it. Probably best viewed on a 40 ft screen. Or failing that, full screen.

I just remember thinking, I have never seen anything like that before.

… Bear in mind that the only silent movie I’ve ever watched was Mel Brooks’s Silent Movie. Oh, and Nosferatu. So, yes… nothing like it before.

I didn’t know anything about it and the trailer didn’t really tell me all that much. At that stage it wasn’t out in the US, there wasn’t a UK or Irish release date and there was so little info on it that I didn’t even know that it was a silent movie… so there was every chance it was going to be just a one week run in the IFI or something. I didn’t matter though, I knew I had to see it.

Flash-forward to today and The Artist is everywhere. Some are even calling it the film of the year. It’s only 16th January for Pete’s sake!

I wouldn’t go that far, not just yet, but I will say that it is an absolutely delightful affair. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a star in the world of silent movies, whose career is threatened by the advent of the age of the Talkies. As his star is falling, another is rising, in the form of Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Miller is a talented bright young thing, who Valentin had helped with her first break.

Despite how charming the film is, and how charming it looked in the trailer… it is, oddly enough, not the film I thought it was going to be. I suppose I thought it was going to be some kind of epic, in the old style of film-making, and it wasn’t. It is, pretty much, the story of George Valentin. And Uggy. Not that this was disappointing, but I’m just surprised that people seem to be so swept away by a film which is, fairly simple to be honest.

What sets it apart from the usual is that it’s quite clever, since there’s no dialogue writer/director Michel Hazanavicius has (obviously) had to call upon his actors to EMOTE. And for EMOTING to look sensible, you’ve gotta have sharp actors. Everyone here is up to the task, John Goodman and James Cromwell in particular, shine in their respective roles. The Artist works very well in this way. I never thought the gimmick wore thin…

… what wore a little thin for me was Valentin’s trials and tribulations. And, when things got a bit heavy, I’m not sure that the tone matched the story we were being told. But, I’m not going to go into the plot. Suffice to say that I thought the runtime was slightly long, even though it was only 100 mins. Aside from that, there isn’t a lot to complain about. It’s a perfectly lovely slice of throwback cinema, a cute and entertaining look at a bygone era.

In any case, they saved it all at the end. I loved the ending.

So, go out and watch this film. While you might not think it’s the film of the year, you’re bound to enjoy it. Unless you don’t like music. If you don’t like music you might have a problem.


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