Film review: The Artist

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Jen Perry is completing her honours year in German at the University of Western Australia, and was also on the student editing committee for Trove, a multi media creative arts journal from 2010-2011

The opinions expressed in Trove are those of individual contributors and not those of the editoral committee or the steering committee (as editorial advisers) or UWA.


Still from the film The Artist 

Review by Jen Perry

Edited by Rachael Hains-Wesson

Film: The Artist
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Running time: 100 minutes
Year of release: 2011
Language: Silent with English subtitles

The year is 1927, and in old Hollywood the silent film is king. George Valentin bursts onto the screen and the camera pans out to reveal a film within a film with a sharply dressed audience, guffawing at the mad caper unfolding before them.

At first glance, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist appears to be a mere black and white film with an exceptionally long orchestral introduction. However, what this film lacks in audible dialogue it makes up for in its originality, wit and panache. George is at the top of his game when he meets Peppy, a lowly film extra who is soon climbing up the ranks with the advent of talking cinema.

George, stuck in an unhappy marriage, develops feelings for Peppy, but as he is soon pushed aside in the name of cinematic progress and change, their union remains a fantasy. The rest of the film follows their somewhat stilted journey of finding their way back to each other. The leading actors Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo have so much charisma and charm, that it is difficult not to be immediately taken in.

Their ability to convey such breadth of feeling without dialogue is an artform in itself. Hazanavicius seamlessly refreshes the silent film for a contemporary audience. If, like me, you assume silent films are merely vestiges of a bygone era, and lack sophistication, then you must see The Artist. It contains everything you could want in a movie from genuine comedy bred out of bizarre situations such as a very clever dog, scenes that depict tense drama and underneath all this there is a story about pure, devotional love.

The score was expertly composed by Ludovic Bource, and rather than being implemented just as background atmosphere to the unfolding story, the music becomes almost another character entirely.  Its narrative presence is especially felt during the infrequent pauses, during which the film felt naked without the music.

Throughout the screening, I noticed that the entire audience was engrossed, sighing when the dog played dead, snorting when Peppy dances a ridiculous jig and crying when George fires his faithful butler. The audience’s enjoyment of each and every scene was palpable, and surely something every filmmaker aims for.

The Artist is incredibly heart warming and for me was one of the best films that I have seen in a long time. Therefore, I urge you to be adventurous and experience it for yourself. It's worth every moment.