The Artist has been receiving praise from all over. Since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, The Artist has been on many must-see lists. I was instantly intrigued by this film because it’s so different from the movies we see today. In case you didn’t know, The Artist is a black and white silent film. Yup, that means no dialogue, unless you count when they show their words on the screen. That can be a major turn-off to many audiences. However, The Artist doesn’t need color or voice to get its story across. In that way, it’s a magical piece of cinema that almost transports you into a different time and place.
The Artist takes place at the time when “talkies” started to replace silent films. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) was a major silent movie star and at the height of his fame. It’s then that he bumps into an aspiring actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Peppy is obviously fascinated by George, and he finds himself rather smitten with her. When the producers approach George about doing a talkie, George adamantly resists, and insists that talkies aren’t going to be as popular as they think. As we all know, George is incredibly wrong, and loses all his fame and fortune. All the while, Peppy becomes a big star by starring in the very popular talkies.
The plot is rather straightforward, but it’s not so simple that it isn’t satisfying. That was one of the things I was most worried about. I have no aversion to seeing a black and white silent film, as long as the story is good. In this case, it definitely is. But what’s even better is that the story is incredibly well-acted. Jean Dujardin is a fabulous entertainer. Without speaking, he brought so much to George and it was an amazing thing to watch. It was equally as fascinating watching Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller. But I will admit that the true star of the film, in my eyes, is Uggie the Dog. The dog was just so cute, smart and inquisitive. I never saw a dog played so well in a film.
The music in this film is amazing. It flows so well into every scene. In addition to the acting, it heightens the emotion or comedy of the film. In a way, I consider the music the true dialogue of the film. It clued you into what the characters were thinking and feeling, and it reminded me of the power music can have.
The movie is well-directed. Director and writer Michel Hazanavicius originally filmed in color, in order to have a crisper image when he converted to black and white. The crispness is easily notable; it doesn’t have the grainy look that many old films have. Hazanavicius really brought to life a cool and creative concept. There are a couple scenes that are like “Whoa!” I won’t elaborate on them because they’re best as a surprise. Although I will say that what’s best about the surprise is how ironic and funny it is, and that’s what makes this not just a movie that is silent and has no color.
It’s safe to say that a movie like this isn’t for everyone. But I do suggest giving it a chance. It seemed like the whole audience went in there skeptical, and the majority left very pleased, including myself. I know for sure that this won’t be the last you’ll hear of The Artist. Come awards season, The Artist is very likely to have a major presence.
The Artist releases into select theaters starting Friday, November 25th.
Q&A with Director/Writer Michel Hazanavicius
I was lucky to sit in for a Q&A with the amazing director of The Artist. In the videos below, he discusses the film, his influences, why he became a filmmaker and more.
Thanks for watching & reading!