Review: The Artist (2011)

The Artist
Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Released: 15 May 2011 (Cannes), 11 October 2011 (France)
by The Weinstein Company
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
Cert: PG (BBFC) PG-13 (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer

In 1927, in Hollywood, the star George Valentin is the pride and joy of the president of the Kinograph Studios Al Zimmer and worshiped by a legion of fans. Among them is Peppy Miller, who stumbles into George Valentin after the premiere of a silent film. Peppy kisses George and the photographers take pictures of them. The next morning, the headlines read “Who Is That Girl?” and Peppy is selected in a dancing audition to be an extra in a film. Over the next few years, Peppy climbs positions in the Kinograph Studios until the advent of talking pictures. Proud George Valentin does not believe in the ‘talkies’, breaks off with the studio and decides to produce and direct a silent film. The film is a complete failure and with the Great Depression, George Valentin falls and is bankrupt. Meanwhile Peppy Miller rises as new star of Kinograph Studios. But she never forgets her idol George Valentin.

It is unbelievable how much I wanted and tried to see The Artist. It took forever to get to my local cinema and once it was there, it was only in for a week. I missed it! So I’ve had to wait for the DVD and now I have it, haha!

The Artist follows the story of George Valentin, a silent film superstar whose popularity declines with the introduction of talking pictures and the rise of Kinograph Studios’ newest star, Peppy Miller. What I love about the story of The Artist is that even though it’s fictitious, it is an account of what really happened to silent film stars. Many actors were unable to adapt to the switch-over to talkies due to not having a suitable voice or just not being fresh anymore and had their careers ended. Michel Hazanavicius has written a story that not only shows the audience what happened to silent film stars, but also creates sympathy for them.

For a main cast that I’ve never heard of prior to Award season, I was really impressed (also, I had no idea that John Goodman was in this!)

George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin, is the pride and glory of Kinograph Studios, and one of the biggest Hollywood stars in 1927. He is arrogant and refuses to fall victim to talkies. However, when he does, his faults really have an impact on his career, leaving him depressed. One of my favourite scenes sees George in his dressing room, hearing sounds (putting a glass down, ticking clocks, his dog barking, etc.) that get continually louder, but is unable to hear himself speak. I loved Dujardin’s pantomime performance, in which he is not seen speaking as much as other characters. His body language really captures Valentin’s emotional states and the horrors of his downfall.

Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, is the newest star who is dominating the talkies after auditioning for a film starring George Valentin, her hero. Even though she is technically Valentin’s “rival”, she is the sweetest thing over; it’s impossible to dislike her! She’s willing to do whatever she can to help George keep his career, including going to the premiere of his box-office flop rather than her own success. I loved the warmth that Bejo gave Peppy, she made her an incredibly likable character. Her body language shows that she is an actress in talking pictures, as her mouth moves a lot more than George’s. Her movements also show that she has a breezy and confident personality.

I loved the music of The Artist, it really captures the end of the Jazz Age and the beginning of the Great Depression and the introduction of Big Band. The music is incredibly catchy at times and conveys the emotions of the scenes.

After watching this film, I now know why it swept the Board at every Award ceremony this year, it is incredibly excellent! I loved everything about it. To me, The Artist is proof that silence can be golden.

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