February 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Artist

Its Oscar season, so this review seems fitting.

Released just over a year ago, in time for Cannes, this little gem has gone on to win at major cinematic award shows. Made in the mould of the silent film era, it follows the life of Hollywood star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) from 1927 to the Great Depression. Georve is charismatic, appealing and loves to be the center of attention. He has huge portraits of himself hanging at his house. His wife, who he doesn't talk to very much, is fairly one dimensional, and mostly stays mad at him. The depiction for their relationship is just about perfect - you don't need voices when you can show George and his wife at the breakfast table, with only their clothes changing everyday, while the lack of conversation and intimacy is consistent.

Berenice Bejo stars as Peppy Miller, a bright young star wannabe that captures George's attention. The progression of their interest in each other is shown with exceptional treatment. George's career appears to be a series of similarly themed movies: A Russian Affair, A German Affair...you get the drift. When Zimmer, the studio boss, tells George that sound's coming to movies, he is dismissive. George is left behind while Zimmer moves on to the talkies with "fresh meat". As George leaves Zimmer's office, he is shown walking down the staircase when he meets Peppy. They exchange notes, while the scene is symbolic of her rise and his swift downfall. He goes on to make his own silent movie which bombs at the box office - the same day Peppy shoots to fame with her movie. George cannot recover from his losses in time before the crash of the stock market - and he is forced to auction everything he owns after his wife kicks him out. He sets fire to his films, and is rescued when his dog Uggie finds help. Peppy takes him to her house from the hospital and he discovers that she had bought all his belongings from his auction house. Clifton, his former valet tells him Peppy is a good person, but he is upset and comes back to his burnt apartment to kill himself. Peppy arrives back in time, and they are reconciled. She tells Zimmer she will leave unless he takes George back - and they go on to make a musical. The only spoken lines in the movie are uttered right at the very end, when Zimmer is thrilled with their dancing and asks for an encore, and George Valentin replies, in accented English, "With Pleasure".

His dog, Uggie, steals the show with his splendid acting, displays a wide array of tricks and shares superb chemistry with George. George and Peppy are amazing in their roles, and carry the film with their exaggerated performances, necessitated by this being a silent movie. The music is reminiscent of the silent film era as well.

There are some things that nag you though: George's refusal to do a silent film is not explained - why didn't he want to speak? The characters are very predictable, and do nothing surprising. But the movie is very well made, with some great acting, and is worth a watch just for that. Its been a long time since you would have watched anything in black-and-white, almost entirely devoid of voices and yet get its story across.


Amber Salm said...

I managed to borrow a DVD of this movie. But before watching it I wanted to know about this movie. Your review helped me a lot and increased my excitement to watch this movie tonight.
The Artist 2011

Rush said...

Glad the review helped, Amber! Thanks for your feedback!!