The Artist (2011)

No words can really do justice to this film. It is both a love film and a love letter to film. It is beautiful. We cried, we laughed, we jumped and at the end we clapped.

It is a film about silent, black and white films. It is silent (well almost entirely) and it is black and white. This I fear will put people off but don’t be put off. Get out of your comfort zone and watch it. You will not see a finer film for some time. Director Michel Hazanavicius is a genius.

This is a story that has been told before. The story of a man who is a huge star who meets a woman who wants to be a star. As her star rises, his star falls and it ends with a scene to make you want to watch it all over again.This is a story of gender reversal, ability to adapt to change and romance. All executed with style, humour and tenderness. There is an amazing scene stealing dog (Uggie), a brooding leading man (Jean Dujardin as George Valentin), a funny leading lady (Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller) and a full orchestral score by Ludovic Bource that makes you wonder why you need words. The Artist moves you in a way that cgi and speech just don’t. There’s no sex but we know there is passion. There are no loud explosions and yet we jumped out of our seats.

Jean Dujardin seems to have channeled every matinee idol you can name. There are glimpses of Ruldolph Valentino, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Cary Grant and later stars such as Gene Kelly. Bérénice Bejo uses the physical comedy of the time to steal scenes and keep the laughs coming. It is wonderful to be reminded of a time before the second world war when women such as Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell were playing comedy roles with aplomb and matching the men for laughs.

For the film lover there are the references to films made in the years when talkies took over. Look out of tributes to Citizen Kane in the breakfast scenes, Singin’ in the Rain and A Star is Born throughout and film noir symbolism (the use of mirrors to show a certain duplicity is straight out of many noir films).

The Artist raises the question: What is film? Is it actually the experience of watching moving images and did we lose something when Al Jolson sang in The Jazz Singer? This is all about the visual. All about experiencing the images. Even the inter-titles are sparsely used. The few words and sounds uttered are not wasted. They remind you of what we’d have missed without the coming of sound. You can’t tap dance if there is no sound.

I don’t want to give away plot points. I want to tell you all to go out and watch it and I hope after watching this nobody will say when recommended a film “oh I don’t want to watch that it is black and white.”

The Artist won’t change your life, some may say it is a whimsical (but that is what the golden age of Hollywood is all about) and it probably has more meaning for some film goers than others but it is (to quote my friend Sam) “ACE as well as being all deep.”

If you need any more convincing here is the trailer: