Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Artist

Silence has never been something I’ve been fond of. During the agonising few minutes’ silence between the last song on an album and the bonus track I’ve often found myself thinking “But why? What’s the point?” The same goes for having to sit in a library, not the cheeriest of places in the first place, and not being able to have a casual chat without being reminded of the rule of no talking in that place. But finally it turns out that silence does work, as is proved in Michel Hazanavicius’s latest offering, The Artist. Not exactly a household name, Hazanavicius has managed to create a film so charming and yet meaningful that it has wowed both critics and audiences, causing it to be nominated for a slew of awards this year, having already won three Golden Globes and is nominated for ten Oscars and twelve BAFTA’s.

The film’s protagonist is George Valentin, a silent movie star so suave that he manages to make James Bond look shabby. Attending the premiere for his latest film, “A Russian Affair”, he is mobbed with paparazzi and fans, leading for him to quite literally collide with a fan, an aspiring actress named Peppy Miller. Their encounter becomes a newspaper headline, which propels Peppy into the spotlight. However as Peppy’s star grows brighter and brighter, Valentin’s career begins to take a downfall due to the growing popularity of the “talkies”.

To those reading the synopsis of the film and thinking that this alone cannot make a substantial film, let alone one so praised by critics, guess what? There is more! This film is brilliant not just because of its plot; there are so many features of The Artist that make it an enjoyable watch. First and foremost, there is a certain actor that I haven’t even begun praising yet. Jean Dujardin, the man with the best name in Hollywood, is wonderful, managing to provide so much emotion and humour to a part in which he only speaks one line, and co-star Bérénice Bejo is equally good, embodying the glamour of every 1920’s screen siren. However, I have to acknowledge that the true star of this film is… Uggie.

Should you have been living in the North Pole for the last few months, Uggie plays Valentin’s loyal dog and best friend, who ultimately saves Valentin’s life in a fire. Always a sucker for animals in film, Uggie pushed me over the edge – after seeing the film I went home and refused to acknowledge my dog until he managed to perform tricks to Uggie’s high standard. Only a few weeks ago was it announced that Uggie is soon to retire, so The Artist will surely be one of the highlights of his career.

So, two crucial parts of the film – plot and acting – are done successfully. But still there is more. The cinematography is, as you would expect of a film dedicated to the silver screen, beautiful. The soundtrack is perfect, rising and falling in scenes with ease, helping the story flow in moments where speech could’ve been needed. Every element of the film seems so precise and well planned out, truly a dedication to the institution that is the world of the cinema and filmmaking.

I may not always be the kindest critic when it comes to films, and usually I have to watch one over and over again before I gain a real appreciation for it, however this is not the case with The Artist. While many films are lavished with so much praise and expectations that they turn out to be a disappointment, this film managed to live up to my expectations. In the days where films now have to rely on special effects and stars to make an impression, all I can say is… thank God for The Artist.

Grace Barber-Plentie

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