<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman, Uggie.
This ‘period’ film with its black and white/silent film gimmick has made noise at all the award shows because it’s beautifully made and wonderfully acted.
Director Michel Hazanavicius pays homage to silent films with The Artist. And so, the film is black and white and almost completely ‘silent’. Just like they did in the old days, the music sets the mood, important dialogue is put up in text slides and expressions do all the talking. Poignant, funny and brilliantly acted, The Artist is a revelation of sorts. That you can still make a film without sound, colour or audible dialogue and make it entertaining is amazing. Jean Dujardin (up for an Oscar for Best Actor) as the ‘silent film actor’ and Bérénice Bejo as the young upstart getting into the ‘talkies’ (talking movies) are delightful.
The story is a simple one: George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the star of the silent film era but soon technology in the form of ‘talking movies’ elbows him out to make way for new talent like Valentin’s protégé the young newbie Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). His slide into obscurity and decline into a quicksand of depression and her secret love for him makes for an emotional and tantalising journey.
The director has played with the whole silent concept by introducing sound in just two scenes in the film: at one point to show how sound is driving Valentin crazy and at the very end to show us why he didn’t make it in talkie films.
James Cromwell as his trusty Man Friday and John Goodman as his Hollywood producer are extremely good supporting characters for the expressive Dujardin and Bejo, both of whom probably are shocked at receiving so many award nominations. Sometimes silence is indeed golden. Of course there’s a mesmerising background score by Ludovic Bource, deftly complementing the visuals on screen.
And we can’t end a review about this film without mentioning Uggie the dog. He accompanies George Valentin’s character through most of the film and is simultaneously funny, cute and integral to the plot of the film. You may have seen him on stage at the Golden Globe Awards when the film won there. He’s even made people ponder having a separate category of awards for animal actors. Joey the stallion from War Horse, watch out!
Not all the critics are convinced about The Artist, it certainly isn’t the greatest film or even a great film. But it is delightfully good and credit must be given for achieving such brilliance with no CGI, dialogue or colour in a day of 3D monstrosities.