Directed by Michael Hazanavicus. Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell. 100 mins.
In cinemas now
DELIGHTFUL, JOYFUL AND INFECTIOUS, THE ARTIST CELEBRATES THE SOUND OF SILENCE
In a world where we Tweet, text and tell every irrelevant, random thought, it took a silent film to remind us of the unadulterated joy to be found in music, body language and shutting the hell up.
As the charming, egotistic silent star of the times, George Valentine (Jean Dujardin, superb) oozes a charisma that’s a blend of Cary Grant and George Clooney, with the nimble toes of Fred Astaire. But when talking movies are introduced, he’s usurped by the aptly named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo, infectious), an irresistible young actress who woos cinema goers with the twinkle in her eye and beauty spot on her lip. And despite sharing a flirtatious energy, George’s dwindling career leaves him feeling depressed and disposable, and this potential love affair is put on hold as Peppy experiences the dizzying heights of fame.
Wonderfully self-aware, Michael Hazanavicus’ The Artist is brilliant not only in that it explores the history and technique of silent films while, well, being a silent film; but his archetypal characters and classic love story are a beguiling, nostalgic nod to the favoured themes of a bygone era of filmmaking. The skill needed to demonstrate the novelty of talkies – without actually using sound – cannot be understated, and the combination of sumptuous cinematography, transcendent performances and irresistible score makes you weep for a world that rewards Michael Bay’s school boy obsession with things that go BANG!
Tom Stoppard wrote “comedy, love and a bit with a dog – that’s what they want”, and The Artist delivers in spades. Hazanavicus blends the humour and drama perfectly, knowing just when to leave the Keystone Cops, dance routines and scene-stealing stunt puppies behind in favour of evocative, heart-felt emotion. Refreshingly free of cynicism, The Artist proves a genuine, joyous, jazzy and infectious exploration of love, fame and the endless appeal of the Charleston. Sceptics, prepare to bite your tongue.