The Artist [DVD]
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Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), it seems the sky’s the limit--major movie stardom awaits. The Artist tells the story of their interlinked destinies.
The Artist is a love letter and homage to classic black-and-white silent films. The film is enormously likable and is anchored by a charming performance from Jean Dujardin, as silent movie star George Valentin. In late-1920s Hollywood, as Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he makes an intense connection with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. As one career declines, another flourishes, and by channeling elements of A Star Is Born and Singing in the Rain, The Artist tells the engaging story with humour, melodrama, romance, and--most importantly--silence. As wonderful as the performances by Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo (Miller) are, the real star of The Artist is cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman. Visually, the film is stunning. Crisp and beautifully contrasted, each frame is so wonderfully constructed that this sweet and unique little movie is transformed from entertaining fluff to a profound cinematic achievement. --Kira Canny
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The frames are slightly speeded up to suggest the look of early silent films, although not as much as they would have been then, due to the limited number of frames per second that cameras of the earlier twentieth century could record.
‘The Artist’ is about a silent movie star of the 1920s who helps an unknown young actress begin her career, only to see her become rich and famous while he is ruined when he cannot adapt to the new medium of films with sound. The story ends on a happier note.
In the quite interesting and extensive DVD extras (mostly in colour and with sound!) the leading actors look very different when not made up as their characters.
‘The Artist’ received numerous awards, including Oscars. This may owe a little to the film industry liking films about itself. I give it 4 stars rather than 5.
However, I did care about the characters and found making a black and white, silent film in the modern era an interesting choice partly because it is such an unusual thing to do. It is unlikely to have many imitators, but just now and then, as here, it works.
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