¨Look at what you've become. You've become proud! You've become stupid! ¨
The Artist is a beautiful film that pays homage to movies from the late 20`s and early 30`s, the silent film era. In order to do so, French director Michel Hazanavicius decided to make this film almost entirely without sound and in black and white. Many producers would`ve probably thought he was crazy for trying to make a film like this in these days where viewers are used to seeing spectacular and colorful movies with great sound and even in 3D. However, The Artist works perfectly and is one of the brightest films of the year despite being in black and white. The cinematography is spectacular (perhaps only rivaled this year by The Tree of Life and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), the costume design and editing are among the best of the year, and the score is also amazing. This is truly a beautiful film that many film historians will enjoy for the nice tribute it renders to the age of silent films. Many famous actors during this era weren’t able to make the transition to the talkies, and that is exactly what The Artist is about, and it does it in a very simplistic but stylized fashion. The film has been nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Performance by a Lead Actor (Jean Dujardin) and a Supporting Actress (Berenice Bejo). It will probably walk away with the Best Picture title considering how appealing the subject matter is to the Academy, and how well the film was crafted. Please don’t be scared off because the movie is silent or in black and white because the story is really entertaining and despite being colorless it is brighter than any other film released this year. It is really worth a watch; you won`t regret it.
The year is 1927 and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the height of his artistic career. He is a very successful Hollywood actor and producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) is very pleased with his work. After having succeeded together yet again in a recent film, they are already collaborating for their next project. During rehearsals for their next movie, George runs into an extra named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). They hit it off instantly sharing a dance number and George insists that Peppy should get the part. Pepper falls in love immediately with George, but he is married to Doris (Penelope Ann Miller) so their relationship is entirely professional. George gives Peppy the best advice she would ever receive: In order to make it in the industry she needs to be different and he paints a spot near her lip. This will be her trademark later on as she slowly begins rising to the spotlight during the arrival of the talkies. Valentin however, isn’t lucky and realizes his days as a successful actor are coming to an end with the advent of these talking pictures. People want to see new faces and hear their voices. Al Zimmer realizes this and breaks relations with George, so Valentin decides to produce, direct, and star in his own silent film. The movie is a failure as people want to see these new talkies, and as Valentin`s fame becomes to decline, Peppy Miller begins to grow into a superstar. Valentin is left with nothing except his faithful driver, Clifton (James Cromwell) and his Jack Russell Terrier named Jack. The times have changed for the great artists and fortunes are reversed.
The Artist is among my top ten favorite films of the year and it works really well, not only as homage to these silent films, but as a love story as well. Along with Midnight in Paris, these are perhaps the two best romantic movies of the year and would make for an excellent date. I`ve already mentioned some of the technical aspects, but now I would like to praise the performances from Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, and the dog (which was played in most part by Uggie). I can`t leave out the dog, because he plays an important role in this film, and in a way is Valentin`s faithful companion and savior. Jean Dujardin does deserve the Oscar nomination for his performance, he was terrific, and I think I enjoyed it over George Clooney`s. If he wins, it will be well deserved. My favorite performance of the film however, comes from Berenice Bejo, who was also nominated as a supporting actress. She is just terrific and shines every time she`s on screen. Her performance gives this black and white movie a lot of color. Both Bejo and Dujardin have worked together with director Hazanavicius in the past in the French spy spoof film OSS 117. I`ve never seen the movie, nor its sequel, but after seeing The Artist I`m very much interested in doing so. Overall this is a terrific film and one you won`t want to miss.