Oh my God. Never have I experienced such a true piece of cinema. “The Artist” written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is something to marvel at. The movie may have been a bit longer than movies today, but the length was not an issue. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent film star who finds himself seemingly forgotten when talkies arrive. Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, a woman he meets by chance and sparks with instantly, saves him (as did George’s dog) from ultimate doom. The three characters that stood out to me where George Valentin, Peppy Miller, and the dog! George is proud, charismatic, distressed, in love and passionate. Peppy is enthusiastic, beautiful, loving, famous and sweet. The dog is loyal, trained, caring, heroic and intelligent. This film took place in the late 1920s and early 1930s America. This film is a romance, comedy and drama. I was wholly entertained. I laughed, I teared up, I was moved. The theme I got from the film was, “Don’t be so proud that you miss out on something amazing.”
Like “Hugo”, the production of this film was nearly flawless. There were no errors that diverted my attention away from the story. The sets matched the period perfectly, the lighting was great as well. The costumes were superb! The style of the 1930s was reflected in this film. I’m sure there were wigs used, however, everyone’s hair looked real! Make-up was done nicely, too.
The sound! Couldn’t hear ANY of the dialogue for the first 96 minutes of the film. Wonder why. All kidding aside, the sound was crisp, clear and had proper volume. The choreography takes me back to when I’d watch black and white films, some silent, as a kid. It was so happy, it made me want to join in with them and experience the joy they shared on screen. The musical score was delightful, as the it set the tempo and matched the emotions going on in the film. They also knew when silence was just as powerful and as purposeful.
I loved the props! They got all the appropriate props for everything! Especially the props for the studio sets. And the cars too, they were wonderful.
The acting blew me away. I was astonished at the level of understanding I had of what was going on, who was feeling or saying what. The body language was spot on too. In the scene where Peppy goes to George’s dressing room to leave him a message on the mirror, when they have a moment and it looks like they’re going to kiss, Clifton comes in. Bérénice places her hand on her neck at that moment and it perfectly translates what she’s feeling! The actors did a remarkable job of creating unbelievable chemistry on screen and the director/writer made a timeless piece and used this medium fantastically.
I hope to see more silent films in the next year as I think we can expect to see a comeback of them. Maybe not, but I think it would challenge many.
*A small tidbit, the movie was shot in the 1.33:1 "Academy ratio," just as in silent-film days, since director/writer Hazanvicius, Michel considered it 'perfect for actors' because it gives them 'a presence, a power, a strength. They occupy all the space of the screen.'