MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
What nicer way to start a new year of film releases than The Artist, a warm throwback movie to a simpler time of silence and orchestral accompaniment with love poured right through it. Like many people my age (21), in fact like many people, I have to admit: I’ve never seen a silent film! Oh, the shame. Any film writing credentials I probably don’t have just went straight out the window. But at least I’m being honest, right? The Artist does what a lot of films about cinema fail to do because it also works on its own by being a very sweet French romance (albeit set in Hollywood). Set in the late 1920s/early 30s, The Artist stars Jean Dujardin as George Valentin, a silent movie star, adored by fans whose career and fame is attacked by the advent of the talkies. Valentin is forced to watch on as younger actors and actresses become talking stars while he stubbornly refuses to adapt and the studio seek a new era of talent, leaving him redundant. When the Great Depression hits, Valentin has lost everything and the world seems to have utterly passed him by.
I can say as a silent movie novice that not only will this film provide a lot of warmth to fans of the period, but it’s extremely good fun regardless. The soundtrack is probably the first thing worth mentioning and it’s so divine I felt compelled to stay until the very end of the credits to enjoy every note, something I seldom have the patience to do.
The film has an interesting commentary on the forever changing nature of cinema and does it through compelling characters who certainly don’t lack expression. Although 99% of the film is silent there are a couple moments in the film when sound is used very effectively and the first scene using sound in particular is one of the most effective pieces of cinema I’ve seen in a while as Valentin realizes the world is understood through sound, but not willing to embrace this undeniable technological evolvement.
So why the 4 rather than 5 stars unlike so many other reviews? The Artist is a worthy Oscars contender but unlike some of the other outstanding films form the last awards season (The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3, 127 Hours, The Social Network) it didn’t quite move me emotionally to quite the same extent. But it does what it does extraordinarily well. It’s certainly broadened my mind while being an excellent piece of cinema and one that I hope succeeds as it deserves to be enjoyed.
The Artist is out now in the UK on a staggered release. Running Time 100 mins. Certificate PG (UK).
Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.
Review by David Rank