What can I say about The Artist that hasn’t already been said? I’ve been constantly spouting plaudits since I first saw it at London Film Festival last year, and I’m swiftly running out of superlatives. This is cinema at its most illuminating – charming, clever, magical, it will leave a smile on your face for hours after viewing.
Set during the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’, the film looks at the invention of ‘talking’ cinema and its effect on the silent stars of the previous era. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, one of the biggest personalities of silent cinema, who finds himself thrown by the wayside when he refuses to adapt to the changing times. Berenice Bejo’s character Peppy Miller polarises Valentin’s career, her rise to stardom is concurrent with his downfall. Both the leads are superb, their chemistry shines through the relatively simple romantic plot. In supporting roles, John Goodman as a fat cat movie producer and James Cromwell as the faithful butler are excellent, but the turn of Valentin’s faithful furry companion Uggie eclipses them, it’s a real shame that he’s not eligible for Academy Awards.
Filmed in black and white and done entirely in silent (or is it?), the artist is a tribute to the beginnings of cinema as we know it, but it is also so much more. This is not merely homage, it inhabits its own unique niche.
I would love to call it perfect, but it sags a touch in the middle, meaning it doesn’t stay consistently at the peak set by the first half hour. It’s tempting to call it irrelevant though, if you have more fun at the cinema this year then you’ll probably be doing something you shouldn’t be doing in a public place. Oscars are surely on the horizon – Best Picture and Best Actor being the most likely. Go see it as soon as possible.