Film Review: The Artist
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Having just been nominated for no fewer than ten Academy Awards, Michel Hazanavicius' (try saying that with a mouthful of popcorn) The Artist has certainly created a stir amongst both critics and audiences alike. But is it actually any good?
A (nearly) silent black-and-white film isn't exactly the easiest sell to a multiplex audience more attuned to over-sized robots hitting each other over the head in a Michael Bay film. But, perhaps surprisingly, The Artist seems to have won-over mainstream audiences and it has hovered around number eight in the Box Office Top Ten for several weeks. So far, so good.
The film is set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, as film studios were making the transition from silent films to sound. It focuses on the careers and love lives of two actors: declining silent star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and rising actress Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) as they experience the transition to talkies. This narrative is carefully constructed and leads to an enjoyable and charming plot which has just the right level of comedy and humour to engage the audience.
Anyone who says all silent, black-and-white films are boring is, quite frankly, wrong. The Artist demonstrates that, even with all the technical wizardry and CGI seen in so many films these days, other, more traditional mediums can work alongside these techniques.
One of my favourite aspects (and I don't think this is a spoiler) was the occasional use of sound, whether a dog barking (a really cute dog) or simply the noise of the characters' breath. When you watch The Artist, it takes about fifteen minutes to 'tune in' to the fact that, yes, this is a silent film but once you engage with this, sound suddenly becomes unexpected and assumes a greater dramatic significance.
Hazanavicius' film is well-directed and shows his clear love of silent cinema. Although some have argued that the film's success is down to its novelty factor, it is clear that the film can stand as an accomplished work on its own without being a gimmick. Some stunning central performances and visually dynamic lighting add to the charm of the film and I'm sure that you will like many aspects of it. So, is it deserving of its Oscar nominations? Yes. Will it win Best Picture? Hopefully. Is it a film just for movie geeks? Definitely not.