I’m rarely stunned while watching a film, or at a loss for words following the conclusion, but I was both with Michel Hazanavicius’ brilliant film The Artist.
There has been nonstop praise for The Artist for months now, and when it comes to crazy praise for films I tend to minimize my expectations. With this film being dubbed the greatest since sliced bread I was cautiously optimistic going into the film, just so I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Set in 1927 Hollywood, we are quickly introduced to the IT guy of the time, George Valentin, he is the star of stars in the silent film era. The film starts to depict how Hollywood is in a transition period from silent films to “talkies” (or talking films) and at the same time, the young girls who Valentin discovered becomes a big star in these talking films.
Going into the this film, some may still not know what to expect. Well it’s a silent film, so don’t think the sound is broken in the theater.
The main leads in the film are and actor and actress 99% of film go’ers are unfamiliar with. Both French, Jean Dujardin plays the lead of George Valentin, and Berenice Bejo plays the lovely Peppy Miller.
Even the director is an unknown, Michel Hazanavicius, so how can these three people come together, paired with some Hollywood faced people do know, and create the favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar?
Silent films are a thing of the past, as The Artist shows, but for Hazanavicis to put out a silent film today, man that takes some stones.
It also takes some amazing actors to compensate for the lack of audio help.
Luckily for us, we got some BRILLIANT performances.
Not to be forgotten also in the film are John Goodman who plays the ruthless, cigar smoking director Al Zimmer and James Cromwell who plays the loyal driver and assistant to Valentin.
Now the idea of a silent film with unknown stars may be off putting but you have to give this film a chance.
You’ll be blown away by the emotion and stellar acting done, simple facial expression, hand motions, the addition of a trusty dog, little things that make the absence of syllables an afterthought.
The Artist is a love story, a man and his career, between a young actress and the future of the business, between a dog and his owner, and between a man and his life.
This is a beautiful film from start to finish, polished with an amazing orchestra setting the tempo for every scene. From the tense climax to the happy-go-lucky show boating of Valentin. The only flaw I could point out was that the 100 minute run time left me wanting more!
I remember a two months ago speaking to renowned film critic Jeffery Lyons right after he was this film and he implored me to go see the film “it’ll change your life and the way you look at movies forever” he said. When starting the film that was something I remember and was ready to prove him wrong, afterwards I was left wondering how it was possible that this film could impact the way I watch every other film for the rest of my life.
And what I think he meant, and this goes for everyone who will see The Artist, and then subsequently watch another film following, is the emphasis we put on acting is often so reliant on a script and screenplay and not on the actors skill itself. The days of Charlie Chaplin, and black and white films are long gone, but Hazanavicius brought back the importance of sheer acting to the silver screen with this masterpiece.
The film has every aspect you would want in a film, it’s funny, romantic, dramatic, suspenseful, and tells the story of a man’s fall from grace so perfectly, while the Hollywood world continues to move on and evolve without him.
When it comes to a film like this it’s all about actors nailing their part, and we get flawless performances by Dujardin and Bejo, both who have been nominated for Oscars. Dujardin should get the gold in my eyes for his mesmerizing performance, hitting every note, every dance step, and every heart wrenching expression all the while never once over acting a scene. Bejo is stunning on screen, and is enchanting in every scene but she’s in tough company to snag the hardware away from the likes of Rooney Mara, Viola Davis or Meryl Streep.
With great supporting roles from Cromwell, Goodman, the dog, and the music, The Artist is one of the most enjoyable films in the last decade, and it’ll leave you stunned, shocked, and pleased beyond belief.
Not once does the audience feel like this is some tribute or time machine-like experience, the feeling is current, yet expressive of the times that take place in the film.
The Artist is one of the best films ever about the movies itself, and is my pick hands down as the Best Picture of 2011.