Magic speaks for itself
Director: Michel Hazanavicius ( OSS 117 ) Stars: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, Missi Pyle, Uggie, Penelope Ann Miller, John Goodman, James Cromwell A quiet achievement SOON to become known as ‘‘ that French silent movie’’, The Artist paints a picture of old Hollywood that seems strikingly new. It hardly matters that it is not. Remember, we are living in an age where our senses have become numbed by hi- tech special- effects, shaky- cam cinematography and breakneck edits. Then there is that forbetter- and- for- worse 3d factor.
So for an audience to be engaged and entertained by a movie that has no spoken dialogue – and is shot in a square- framed black- and- white – is nothing short of a triumph for The Artist.
The story begins in 1927, as silent movie star George Valentin ( Jean Dujardin) is at the peak of his popularity.
Blessed with great athleticism, a killer smile and a charming capacity to over- act under any conditions, Valentin is loved by all – except his attention- starved wife ( Penelope Ann Miller).
And maybe, just maybe, the movie business itself.
The studio bosses of Hollywood want to start making talkies. They’ve invited Valentin to join the party, but he has refused to attend. He believes sound is a fad that will soon pass.
Instead, Valentin goes independent and sinks his fortune into an epic silent adventure picture starring himself.
The movie dies a swift death at the boxoffice and the career of Valentin is in ruins.
As the star of Valentin plummets to the ground, another is very much on a meteoric rise. The beautiful Peppy Miller ( Berenice Bejo) got her start as a background extra on a Valentin picture. Now she is the queen of the talkies.
For what is ostensibly a bright and bouncy affair, The Artist does get rather dark and depressing for a surprisingly lengthy period in its final act.
Writer- director Michel Hazanavicius arguably overdoes the time spent on Valentin’s fall from favour.
However, the turnaround, when it does finally arrive, earns a valuable pay- off just as the final credits are about to roll.
The irresistible nature of The Artist owes much to its superb cast. The French leading duo of Dujardin and Bejo are wonderful throughout, mugging and overemphasising the simplest of gestures with a knowing wink.
The best acting work of all comes from a remarkable little Jack Russell terrier named Uggie. He plays Valentin’s everfaithful running mate, on- screen and off.
Could this be the best- ever performance by a canine in a motion picture? It has to go close.
Soon to become known as ‘‘ that French silent movie that won the Oscar’’, The Artist is no mere nostalgic ode to how magical the movies once were. This is a celebration of how magical the movies can still be. Now showing State Cinema Opens Village Cinemas, February 16
IRRESISTIBLE: This silent movie starring Jean Dujardin and Missi Pyle has Oscar written all over it.