The Artist is a silent film but over the last couple of days cinemas have reported audience members demanding refunds due to its lack of dialogue. For one, I find it difficult to believe that people could be unaware of The Artist’s silent genre given the amount of press it has received. And isn’t there always a risk in cinema-going that you might not like the film? Could I have received a refund for The Awakening’s disappointing ending or the non-appearance of Sue Sylvester in Glee’s 3D Movie? I don’t think so.
More importantly though, the absence of dialogue is what makes The Artist so imaginative and original. Plus it isn’t entirely silent but teamed with a magical, award winning score (by Ludovic Bource) which both complements and draws out the emotions established by the script.
As The Artist begins, silent actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) watches his new film premier. This is a clever opener by director Michel Hazanavicius. I was instantly transported back in time. Moving images of a 1920s cinema audience viewed from the back were filmed from just the right angle to make me feel like I was sitting in the row behind. I could almost feel a bonnet on my head and a flapper dress brushing my knees.
Jean Dujardin’s performance as actor George Valentin is outstanding and well deserving of the Golden Globe he received on Sunday. The Artist’s plot follows George Valentin’s frustration as silent films become outdated, talkies (films with dialogue) become fashionable and he is forced to make way for new acting talent. George Valentin is both proud and vulnerable and Dujardin walks this tightrope with skill.
Bernice Bejo is equally brilliant as her character (actress Peppy Miller) grows from naive wannabe to Hollywood star. John Goodman also makes a superb appearance as stern studio boss, Al Zimmer.
The Artist’s retro black and white look never gets tired and I experienced pangs of sadness as I felt the film coming to an end. Neither does the retro appeal carry the whole film, the story itself is pure magic and the sheer volume and quality of wit that is produced in the film’s few lines of text is more than impressive.
But a review of The Artist cannot go without mention of Uggie, George Valentin’s faithful dog. If there was an Oscar for pets Uggie would beat the War Horse paws down.
Making a silent movie was a brave decision, but The Artist demonstrates exactly why more brave decisions should be made in modern film-making. The Artist is a five star classic – both charming and original. No refunds for me please, but I might just pay up to see it again!