Magic speaks for it­self

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies 5 - LEIGH PAATSCH

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.

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