This was my first ever silent film, my first ever black and white film (ashamedly so) and I hope it won’t be my last, ‘The Artist’ is a great little film, that not all film-lovers will enjoy, but if you have a heart and good taste, you should!
First things first, I really enjoyed the film, infact more than I’d expected to to be entirely honest, but I still don’t feel it was best film of 2011. Sure, it deserves the nomination, as it is a brilliant, unique and charming film, just about anyway, but it isn’t without fault. Let’s start with the positives!
As the hush around the audience grew, the ratio aspect of the screen shortened and the colour turned to black and white, I wasn’t sure what I’d let myself in for. Then the music kicks in and Jean Dujardin’s character George Valentin, begins to charm and enthral the audience. Dujardin is a brilliant performer, and has the most expressive face I’ve seen from any actor since Rowan Atkinson and his ‘Mr Bean’ character, this was vital to the success of his character and the film, and it worked. However, I found Valentin as a character to be frustrating, and not hugely likeable, he was making little effort, as his status as THE silent film star was becoming more and more meaningless as the ‘talkies’ rose. His counterpart, Bérénice Bejo, begins her rise to fame as Peppy Miller, the talkies coming at just the right moment for her, as her burgeoning career takes flight, and she becomes THE first big star of the new fangled talking movies. Bejo is a lot more likeable, and the audience feels she deserves her fame more so than Valentin, as she has worked in so many small movies, gradually rising, before her attacking the main roles.
Bejo does owe something to Valentin, as he was the man who kickstarted her career, and the two have a strong bond, that is aching to get out, but never does…or does it? It’s a nice constant storyline, that gives the two opportunities to interact even when Valentin starts to drive himself crazily into depression, and Bejo is Hollywood’s leading lady. Supporting turns from John Goodman, work better than expected, as the audience can predict what he is saying, due to his fame, whilst Uggie the dog steals the show. He’s Valentin’s only loyal friend, and on more than one occasion saves his career and life, he’s not over-played too, meaning his courageous acts seem genuine and not misplaced.
Now, back to my original point of how it is not ‘brilliant, amazing’, but simply, ‘great’. The novelty factor of the silent film is such, that the majority of modern day film-goers, myself included, won’t have seen one before. So, the fact that ‘The Artist’, is such a film, but is entertaining, funny and a love-story too, means it is getting all the buzz. I wouldn’t mind if it won at all, as it is a genuinely good film, it’s just that it’s similar to ‘Avatar’, which almost won in 2009, which utilised the novelty of the immersive 3D technology. Noone had seen such 3D like it, but once the film had removed the 3D, and the story was looked at, it was really nothing special. The same could be said about ‘The Artist’, as I’m not 100% convinced on the story, but then you tend to forget that and enjoy the foreign sights, as there’s very few sounds!
That all being said, the ending was very good. It may have been slightly predictable, but was a nice closure to the story. It really highlighted the use of sound throughout, and how silence may sometimes be better than the hustle and bustle of the world as we know it. I’d also like to see Dujardin, Bejo and director Michel Hazanavicius work together again, be it in English, or their own French language, as in the Bond comedy spoof series ‘OSS 117′, which the trio have made millions with in their native country.
I enjoyed it, not ‘loved’ it, but ‘The Artist’, is definitely worth a watch for everyone who is a lover of film!