Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Rated: PG – 13
Maybe because of how badly our economy has gotten, we have become nostalgic of the past as a society. Especially this year I have noticed the increased nostalgia of the 80’s and 90’s. Even though it can be cheesy is still thought of as a completely different period in our lifetime that seemed simpler. Movies this year especially have become more nostalgic for a different time period of film. With technology getting more accessible, more expensive, and more vicersal (IMAX, 3D etc.), I find it incredibly ironic that one of the best reviewed, most original pieces of cinema in 2011 is a silent, black & white movie that takes place during the 1920’s during the Silent era of Hollywood, where ironically it is about the end of Silent films transitioning to talkie motion pictures.
Renowned veteran actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest star in Hollywood and begins a friendship with a young up and coming actress, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who becomes an overnight sensation with the arrival of talking motion pictures, while George is pushed to the wayside along with Silent films as well.
Here’s a movie that could have been a gimmick of a concept and ends up being an endearing love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Director Michel Hazanavicius definitely took a risk in making “The Artist” and I mean face it, does a modern day Black & white, silent film made by french people really sound like an appealing concept on paper? The film knocks down all barriers and is probably one of the last films that left a lasting smile on my face the entire time and left me dancing out of the theater afterwards on a cloud. Above all, the film is a testament to the power of cinema and how as an art form in can affect us in such a way that emotions, actions, humor, and a sense of imagination can transcend language.
The film is a technical masterpiece as well, the cinematography, script, and production are all A+ and really capture the vibe of a 1920’s silent film and the essence of 1920’s Hollywood. As technically great as the film is, it is carried by its two phenomenal leads. Two no-name French actors (Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo) jump off the screen with their movie star personas. Jean Dujardin as George is the star and deserves all the praise he gets. Without dialogue he must rely on his charm and facial personality to win over the audience, which he does above and beyond even when the story ventures into more morbid terrority. He is an insanely likable character that is a pleasure to watch onscreen. Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller radiates a great 1920’s flapper girl presence that is heartwarmingly adorable. Her individual self never loses sight of who she is and is a breath of fresh air as such a genuinely sweet, fun character that plays off the character of George. Their dance sequences together especially had me grinning ear to ear. Another standout performance is the unbelievably cute Jack Terrier Russell Uggie the dog who play’s George’s loyal companion. It’s not often a dog gets such recognition but the chemistry and way he plays off the character of George is a sentimental, loving friendship that’s not played for cheap laughs.
In a time where we want the next best thing and are very desensitized to the same old thing, but still feel nostalgic for the past, “The Artist” is a refreshing tall glass of water that is immensely satisfying. Make any excuse you like (You don’t like black & white, you don’t like silent films, you don’t like the French) The Artist reminds me of the joy I have of being at the Cinema and why I love it so much. James Cameron, Christopher Nolan and other directors are blowing our minds with newer technology that pushes the envelope with how the audience views films, but with “The Artist” sometimes a wink and a smile at the camera is all you need to remind us why the Movies is one of our most important art forms.