In the Picture
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
The Artist has such a wow factor about it that it seems to be creating a buzz all around the cinema world, and being a movie with virtually no dialogue (and therefore no need for subtitles or dubbing) it is a film that could prove to be popular in many diverse cultures. Director Michel Hazanavicius apparently planned for many years to make a silent movie, but finance eluded him until the success of his French spy parodies OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio, both of which starred Jean Dujardin, and the latter also featured Hazanavicius' partner Berenice Bejo. Dujardin and Bejo are the two wonderful leads in The Artist, though Uggie (Jack the dog) manages to steal most scenes in the film.
Similar to Scorsese's recent brilliant feature Hugo, this movie is a huge tribute to cinema, and significantly the director has noted the influences of Lang, Ford, Lubitsch, Murnau, Wilder and Hitchcock in The Artist, and all these directors worked in both silent and sound pictures.
Against all the current norms the film is mostly silent and is shot in black and white. The story is set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932 and it addresses the vital transformation from silent films to talkies. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a popular silent movie star who is about to face the fading limelight that many silent actors endured when the medium changed. Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) is a rising young actress who is assisted by George. As her star skyrockets with talkies he attempts to produce his own silent film when the game has changed and the '30s depression is about to hit the industry.
In many ways this is a simple and predictable romantic drama, but it is just so brilliantly done. The two leads are absolutely charming and while not overplaying the larger than life silent era acting style The Artist is shot to look and feel like an authentic 1920s flick. While filming in LA the director played music from classic Hollywood films while the actors performed. And the music score by Ludovic Bource is critical to the flow of the story. Many tributes to classic movie themes are engaged in the film, notably the use of Bernard Hermann's love theme from Hitchcock's Vertigo.
Beyond the two leads and the award-winning dog the casting is excellent with John Goodman as the studio boss Al Zimmer, James Clifton as George's valet and Penelope Ann Miller as his wife Doris. This is an elegant and impeccably made feelgood film which seduces you with its silence.