"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
- John Lennon
Copyright Warner Bros. (France)
In the latter part of 19th Century, the concept of moving pictures suddenly jumped from carnival novelty to a leader in mass media entertainment. With the big-budget action and science-fiction of today, let us draw the curtain and show you what it all used to about in the silent film The Artist.
Directed by Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist begins in Hollywood 1927 when there ain't no business like show business. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin; a handsome, energetic and famous silent film star at the top of his game. Everybody loves him and he is very well respected, particularly by the studio boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) and his trusty personal assistant Clifton (James Cromwell). One night after a viewing of his latest film, he has chance encounter with a young beauty by the name of Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and they have an instant attraction. With a little guidance from George, Peppy begins to become noticed in Hollywood, but when talking pictures are born, and the studio decides to only produce films with sound, George is exiled, while Peppy becomes Hollywood's next big star. As George begins to lose everything and descends into oblivion, Peppy tries desperately to reconnect with him, making for a lovely little romantic, quirky and dramatic journey of fate, desire, strength and will.
Along with a beautiful and epic orchestral score throughout, this wonderful romantic comedy-drama is as poignant and subtle as it is theatrical. With no sound, it thoroughly tests the actor's ability to tell the story with facial expression and body language. The two leads, as well as everyone else in the film, pull this off brilliantly. There are a few scenes in particular that are so emotional, so heart-wrenching that the addition of sound would only prove superfluous. This also tests the director's ability to tell the story, and the cinematographer's placement of the camera to most effectively tell that story. Full marks go to Hazanavicius and cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman for accomplishing such a task.
The film is rich with little references to the early films of Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang as well as some stunning imagery and symbolism. It is authentic and detailed, with genuine sets, costumes, and very elaborate production design. Shot in black and white obviously, it also goes so far as to present the film in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, known as the "Academy Ratio" popularised in the 1920s. Hazanavicius' philosophy behind the making of the film is that it's a mark of respect and admiration for the history of cinema. This film returns to the roots of cinema to remind us of what a magical experience it used to be to go to the pictures for escape. Not only is it a return to the origins of film, but it restores the philosophy that film is art, opening the doors up to a whole new generation of movie-goers who might find a deeper appreciation for the concept of filmmaking and storytelling.
Magical, uplifting, adorable, heart-warming and thoroughly engaging, The Artist is a film in a league of its own. With this and Martin Scorcese's Hugo leading Academy Award nominations this year - both films to do with the silent-era and the origins of cinema - it seems we really have gone full circle. The Artist is a revolution of 21st Century cinema. An instant classic.
The Artist was absolutely beautiful. I was overly excited when I found out a silent black and white film would be released, and the fact that it's not a re-release is just.. an instant classic as you said. Beautiful film with a great review to match!