Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Film Review - "The Artist" directed by Michael Hazanavicius

The Artist (2012)                     

An ode to the pre-talkies era, The Artist is up to win ten nominations including big prizes 'Best Picture', 'Best Actor' and 'Best Director'. For a film of few words (completely silent, shot in the classic black and white frame) it seemed a surprisingly natural viewing experience. Without the ability to lure audiences with witty one-liners, comedic sarcasm or romantic dialogue – The Artist draws upon simple, physical humour and sincere human emotion. It's an enjoyable watch, especially for cinephiles, and the loveable dog Uggie almost steals the show!

Jean Dujuardin is George Valentin- a much-loved silent movies actor, whose facial expressions and bold gestures cause his audiences to laugh in an uproar (or at least they look like they're enjoying themselves.) At one of his many film premieres he stumbles upon a keen fan, the young fresh-eyed Peppy Miller (played by Argentine beauty Berenice Bejo). Later, she progresses into the world of Hollywood glamour and fame by starting out as an extra, and then wooing film executives with her dancing skills, cheeky smile and emotional delivery. Ultimately, we follow Valentin's demise as an actor, when he refuses to accept the new technology of 'talkies' films- showing how quickly fame can disappear and loneliness ensue.

The Artist was shot in lower resolution frames and the classic silent film screenshot ratio to create a more authentic piece. Interestingly, the screenplay itself took longer to write than the actual production process- with the film swiftly completed in LA over 35 days. It is clear that Hazanavicius has done his research and his cinematographer Guillame Schiffman beautifully shot the scenes with soft lighting, atmospheric background and character focus. The combination of original supporting music (Ludovic Bource) and slick alluring costumes (Mark Bridges) articulates the vision of 1920s Hollywood the film aims to portray. The combination of American and French staff on set brings European sensuality to a traditional American creation.

There is a rather simple structure, the film follows the characters chronologically throughout their Hollywood careers and there are few settings – the filming studios, the stars' homes, the public cinemas. However, it's hard for any audience member- young, romantic, cynical or learned- not to appreciate the creativity and refinement which oozes out of this timeless, romantic classic.

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