Watching a fake silent movie doesn’t sound a very promising prospect – until you discover French director Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, the most downright entertaining movie to come around in years and a well-deserved runaway winner at the 2012 Oscars.
A joyous celebration of the early days of Hollywood, The Artist looks and sounds just like a film made in that very era – it’s in black-and-white, has a sumptuous orchestral score instead of sound, and uses (almost) no dialogue. The result, though, isn’t simply a clever pastiche but a film that pushes the audience’s buttons in the very same manner that silent filmmakers got their viewers to laugh, sigh and cry.
It helps that Hazanavicius has the perfect cast. Looking every inch the part, Oscar-winning Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a suave and dashing silent movie star in the Douglas Fairbanks mould, right down to his trim pencil moustache. And doe-eyed Bérénice Bejo (Hazanavicius’s wife in real life) is ideal as the sassy young fan, Peppy Miller, he accidentally propels to fame. Yet when the talkies take over, Peppy’s star rises and George’s falls, an archetypal tale that turns out to be surprisingly touching as well as funny.
With its echoes of a slew of Hollywood classics from A Star is Born to Singin’ in the Rain, The Artist is stuffed full of great sight gags, has nifty supporting performances from the likes of John Goodman and James Cromwell, and boasts the cutest canine sidekick since Asta in the Thin Man movies. Go ahead, watch The Artist: it’ll convince you that silence really is golden.
Released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 28th May by EV.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.