Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Running Time: 100 mins
The Artist is a French film about a popular silent movie star who meets a young actress in late 1920s Hollywood. However, the advent of talkies suddenly sends their careers in opposing directions.
I absolutely loved The Artist. It manages to pull off the silent movie vibe so well, with beautiful directing, costume and production design, score and cinematography, whilst the actors do a great job at adapting to the older time period with some brilliant performances. However, it’s not just a stylistic triumph, because this is a film with an enthralling story, both full of heart and full of drama that kept me thoroughly engaged from start to finish.
Nowadays, with ever more fast-paced blockbusters the norm, it’s really hard to put a film like this, which mimics silent era films very closely, into the mix and have it enjoyed. However, The Artist’s success (considering it won Best Picture in 2011) is testament to just how good a film it is.
Stylistically, it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve always found the late ’20s one of the most fascinating periods in Hollywood history, and I can think of no modern film that pays testament to it better than this. Michel Hazanavicius’ direction is sublime, and, combined with expert cinematography, every single scene in this film looks exactly like the films released in the original time period did.
The production design is also fantastic, and, using pretty much 99% practical effects, it does an amazing job at creating such a believable and good-looking environment for the story to play out in, which, in comparison to other modern films that deal with the 20s, but use CGI (i.e. The Great Gatsby) was absolutely wonderful to see.
The intertitles are yet another part of the film that add to the vibe of a real silent movie, but the score is probably the most integral part to make this such a convincing film. Just like the movie scores of old, the music in The Artist plays pretty much consistently, but plays an even more evident role than those in talkies can ever do. With so many emotional peaks and troughs in this plot, the score is extremely diverse, but hugely effective in emphasising the emotions on screen, whilst still never overpowering the pictures and the plot, something that we just don’t see at all nowadays.
Moving onto the performances, and they’re excellent too. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are amazing in the lead roles, pulling off the tricky art of the silent movie by both giving a very theatrical and showy performance, as was the norm in classic Hollywood, but still never going too far that this film becomes just a silly parody. Their performances sum up what this film does so well: tribute silent Hollywood, but remain a fully fantastic film in its own right.
Finally, the story, which was by far the biggest surprise to me. Although it starts off a little slowly, and maybe doesn’t give us as much insight into the characters as we’d like, the way that this plot develops into the second and third acts is exceptional. Brilliantly playing on the historical background of Hollywood’s move towards talkies, the story of these two actors’ careers going in completely opposite directions is endlessly enthralling.
On the whole, it’s definitely a very fun movie to watch, helped by the playful and light humour throughout, but that doesn’t mean it’s without emotion. There are a couple of sequences that are really intense and exciting to watch, hugely contrasting the lighter-hearted tone of the majority of the movie, but it works out absolutely brilliantly in the end.
Overall, The Artist is a brilliant film, managing to tribute classic era silent movies and balance that with telling its own engaging and hugely entertaining story. With technical brilliance every way you look, and fantastic performances, there’s so much to love about this, and that’s why it gets an 8.5 from me.