I'm a freelance writer living in North London. Visit my blog at www.quirkytravel.com.
Published January 16th 2012
Silent black and white films are no stranger to me. Two of my favourites are Pandora's Box, starring the inimitable Louise Brooks, and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. I have spoken to people who won't watch black and white films, and have read articles about The Artist written by otherwise intelligent people saying that it took a while to get used to the lack of sound. Behave!
The film is directed by Michel Hazanavicius and stars French actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, as well as John Goodman and a blink or you'd miss him cameo by Malcolm McDowell. It tells the tale of silent movie star George Valentin and his fall from grace with the advent of the talkies at the same time as the rise of new young star Peppy Miller.
As with the old silent films, it isn't actually silent. There's a score to move things along, including a piece - the love theme by Bernard Herrmann - swiped shamelessly from Vertigo. This isn't the only reference to other films. The husband and wife at the breakfast table montage from Citizen Kane is copied (and not done nearly as well). Sunset Boulevard is brought to mind in a scene where George is watching his own old films in his darkened living room. One of the films he watches is Douglas Fairbanks' Mark of Zorro, which is intercut with close-ups of Jean Dujardin himself. One could call this a love letter to cinema, or on the other hand one may see it as a bit of a rip-off.
The Artist is a funny and pleasant enough film, but I personally found it a tad sugary. This should put no-one off, however; I am perhaps one of the least romantic people who ever walked this earth.
Sound was used very cleverly, being introduced at unexpected times and I found a dream sequence very effective. The lead Jean Dujardin deserves the awards that he'll be winning this awards' season.
Unexpected at times, sugary at others (most other reviewers seem to call it "joyous"), The Artist is a film absolutely worth seeing. And for anyone who hasn't watched a silent film before, shame on you, and go and make up for it now. Then go and watch some good old ones!