Considering that there was a rather unorthodox and unique idea behind it with a black and white silent film set in the 1920s being released in 2011, The Artist still provided us with the thought that it could become something that’ll renovate the birth of cinema, so to speak. With this in mind and having said that it is surrounded by all these colourful Hollywood dramas, action and science fiction films that we see in this generation, everything about The Artist literally swept away not only every film released in 2011 but the majority of the films released over the past decade! It has it all: it’s charming to watch with strong bonds between the characters, it is very emotional, it was surprisingly very funny with a lot of brilliant jokes and most of all: it manages to successfully capture the reality of the time setting.
To be able to pull off a successful silent film in this generation is a very difficult task considering that we are now piled with films with extremely high budgets featuring various aspects such as overloading visual effects, action films and the re-birth of 3D. So, having said this, there would need to be a solid enough story for it to work. Quite frankly, for it to perhaps reboot the older world of cinema it had to be a movie about movies otherwise if it’s part of any other particular theme of film story-wise, it wouldn’t really be something that hadn’t been repeated time and time again. Unlike many films in most recent years, The Artist consists of many breakthrough scenes that are somewhat referenced to Citizen Kane by Orson Welles and will undoubtedly become landmark scenes in many years to come.
French actor Jean Dujardin portrays English ‘speaking’ actor George Valentin and gives quite possibly one of the best performances in a very long time! Dujardin’s approach to the character very closely resembles both Clark Gable’s masterful performance as Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind back in 1939 and Gene Kelly’s witty and delightful role as Don Lockwood in classic 1952 musical Singin’ In The Rain due to their mutually charming nature particularly towards the opposing gender. In addition to the mesmerizing attributes, Dujardin bought forth a lot of witty comedy that not only had similarity with Gene Kelly, but also with the legendary Charlie Chaplin in his films. Dujardin rightfully deserves the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor for renovating the silent style of acting and defining its true meaning so exquisitely. Alongside Dujardin comes another breakthrough performance from French actress Bérénice Bejo who brings forth a Marilyn Monroe-like character Peppy Miller with a naturally young and sexy nature, so to speak, who adds passion and pure enjoyment to the story. The bond that Valentin and Miller have is beyond any other romantic connection between a male and female protagonist seeing as there’s a very low supply of passionate kissing or intimate sexual contact. So, there’s an immediate bond between them and proves that emotional bonds are the most important aspect within relationships. Dujardin and Bejo together introduce a brand new message about acting that action really does speak louder than words.
In the supporting cast are various American and British actors featuring the likes of James Cromwell as Valentin’s valet, John Goodman as Al Zimmer – head of Kinograph Studios who Valentin regularly worked with in his silent projects, Penelope Ann Miller as Valentin’s wife and a cameo appearance from A Clockwork Orange actor Malcolm McDowell in a role simply known as “The Butler”. Another piece of treasure in the ensemble cast is to Uggie as Jack, who’s a trained Jack Russell Terrier who has appeared in various projects over the years (most recently in Water For Elephants). Hats go off to this dog who adds a lot of witty comedy to the film alongside Jean Dujardin and also a sense of innocence that’ll guarantee to gain the film a wider audience despite its occasionally unappealing style of film to many others out there. Uggie’s “performance” brings forth that emotionally realistic role that we saw so amazingly from Joey in War Horse!
With the majority being French behind all of the production aspects, they could not have accomplished a more accurate setting with the world of American Hollywood and restored the category of silent films so amazingly! In addition to the traditional 1.33:1 ratio of filming that was used during the silent era, the use of classical music composed by Ludovic Bource adds more liveliness and enchantment to the film as it tells the story alongside the actions from characters directed magnificently by Michel Hazanavicius. Hazanavicius provides numerous styles of direction during The Artist that feature upbeat and rather passionate forms including dancing and acting from the films within The Artist, the use of the background settings and directing Uggie but more depressingly, the personal psychological pain presented. His script was absolutely magnificent as well and became another characteristic expressed that provides the fact that films are really about actions rather than words.
Overall, The Artist is truly a masterpiece for the ages that will leave you speechless in every single way! It’s not only a love story between a man and a woman but it’s also and most importantly a love story about motion pictures. You could literally name many classic films (both silent and sound) where The Artist can in one way or another numerously be compared to. It’s a miraculous achievement in French cinema and tributes the works from filmmakers part of the silent era that include Charlie Chaplin, Georges Méliès, Howard Hawks and perhaps to Mel Brooks too for his work in the 1976 silent satirical comedy Silent Movie. The upcoming 84th Academy Awards and the majority of the awards presented would deservedly belong to The Artist due to the impact it has had in the world of cinema.