Sure to capture a slew of Awards by year’s end, THE ARTIST is a pitch perfect lovestory to the era of silent filmmaking.
George Valentin (played to perfection by Jean Dujardin) is a toothy star of 20s Cinema who parades through Hollywood with a swagger. Oblivious to the coming tide of the talkie, he ruins his career with an expensive epic that eschews sound in favour of more “traditional” silent-cinema gyrations and title cards. Left destitute, he’s rescued by the ingenue (Bérénice Bejo) that got her start after a brassy encounter at the height of his fame.
It can’t be stressed enough how perfectly cast the film is. With powerhouse turns by a supporting cast including John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller, it is the two leads that were simply born to play these roles. Down to their physical shape, they embody that era of moviestar look with delightful verisimilitude.
The score by Ludovic Bource is a treat, as the film is of course far from silent. Punctuated between the title cards (often quite hysterical in themselves) is a percussive, energetic soundtrack. Heck, even the dog Jack is a delight, playing off the “wonderdog” ethos of that age.
Yes, there are some minor pacing issues, especially in the latter third. Still, when one of the final cards makes one of the better onomatopoeic jokes ever in a so-called silent film, all is forgiven.
Special bonus marks are for the synergy I experienced seeing the film at the beautiful Elgin cinema – a shot early on in the film, showing a theatre with opera boxes and an Academy Ratio screen, echoed almost exactly the very angle I was sitting at, with an almost perfect replication of the same view in front of me in real life. This type of inadvertent movie magic only heightened my affection for the piece – THE ARTIST is a wonderful treat, so full of fun and verve that it won’t be hard to celebrate it for years to come.