Films | The Artist – Movie Review

The Artist – Movie Review

Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on February 25, 2012 | No Comments

PRODUCER – Thomas Langmann, Emmanuel Montamat
DIRECTOR – Michel Hazanavicius
WRITER – Michel Hazanavicius
CAST – Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell
MUSIC – Ludovic Bource

The Artist opens with the display of magnificent narcissism in a much-loved super star of the silent era. It begins with a film within a film and the hero taking the encore. It spends a lot of time, on the reception and adulation of the entranced audience. As far as opening sequences go, it is at once loaded and an enchanting opening, suggesting the world of the film, its characters and the impending drama, in one masterstroke. This tightness becomes a sign of better things to come and the film never lets us down.

The film, a silent film, is set in the times when silent films were transitioning into talkies. The face of the quick-silver industry was fast-changing and with it fates. George Valentin, a hugely popular film star becomes the victim of this transition, losing not only his stardom but his fortunes faster than he could have imagined. On the other hand there is this spunky starlet, Peppy Miller, who began as an extra on the sets of Valentin’s film but now is a rising star of the talkies. Among the reversal of fortunes there is a silent romance, throbbing away, somewhere under the surface.

Silent films, given their limitedness always had straightforward and simple plots. They had a lot of drama and emotion that was expressed with magnanimous flair. It added to the larger-than-life halo of the movies which we all love. The Artist does the same and with a lot of heart and no melodrama. Its period music, vintage frames and dialogues cards makes us nostalgic as much as they suck us in to the world of Valentin and Miller, a world we grow to love exactly the way we did with the films of yore. Love is old-world and so is loyalty but we lap it up as though the concepts were never dated.

Perhaps, what makes the film exuberantly delightful is the perfect casting. Jean Dujardin as Valentin embodies within him effortlessly, the man-of-the-world charm of Clark Gable and winsomeness of Gene Kelly, men who defined the talkie romantic and musical cinema of 30’s and 40’s Hollywood. Bérénice Bejo as the sprightly and zesty Peppy Miller, lights up the screen with her sheer spontaneity and youthfulness.

In its attempt to serve up a solidly entertaining and strongly narrated film, the film harks back to an era where stories, characters, emotions, motivations, performances and technique were full-bodied. In all aspects, The Artist gives a nod, if not a tribute to traditional story-telling in its full glory. And it does it with a command over the medium that is at once admirable as much as it is enjoyable.

If in this day and age of instant entertainment and shorter-than-140 characters attention spans, if a black and white, silent film telling a simple love story of little grandeur but lot of heart is so delightfully refreshing, then for the film, that is a stellar badge to wear.

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