Movie Review: THE ARTIST by FENIL SETA
I had mentioned a year back in a review that the present day scenario is that of novelty, especially when it comes to films. Filmmakers are trying their best to come with something different, something innovative, something hatke! And there are 2 ways to do about it. One is to go forward – come up with new ideas and concepts or define new genres in filmmaking. The other idea is to go on a rewind mode, i.e. come up with films or ideas that were popular once upon a time but may or may not be that relevant in present day. Even in Bollywood, films like Wanted, Singham etc are working big time and these instantly remind me of the angry young man films that were so popular in 70s, 80s and 90s. Likewise, The Artist too falls in this league. It’s black and white and it’s a silent film! What’s more, it throws light on the people belonging to the 1920s and 1930s, i.e. when B&W silent films were the rage! Thankfully, the makers don’t mess and come up with a poor imitation of the great films of those times! Rather, The Artist hits the bullseye and provides a brilliant cinematic experience! Not to be missed!
The story of the movie: The film commences in 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a famous silent movie star whose marriage is on the rocks. He befriends an extra, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and even helps her bag a role in his film, A German Affair. Thanks to this break, Peppy gradually rises and becomes a lead actress as well. Meanwhile, the trend of talking pictures gets popular and his producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) shelves all his silent productions and starts working exclusively on talkies. George however doesn’t endorse this new trend and feels that sound is just a fad. To prove it, he decides to direct and produce his own film, titled Tears Of Love. Everything was at stake for George as he had himself financed the film. Will he succeed?
The opening titles roll in a typical silent-era fashion and that instantly helps set the mood. The commencing scene at the movie premiere was alright but nevertheless was a pleasant watch. The fun begins when George and Peppy bump into each other and also not to forget during filming the scene of A German Affair. Hilarious! Besides humour, the script is laced with some very witty and smart scenes as well. For instance, Peppy putting her hand in George’s suit and then grabbing her own waist was an outstanding scene! And of course the climax too! More on that later!
The film is just 100 minutes and has a breezy narrative. It does drag at few places but no complaints as the film remains engrossing from start to finish. The last 20 minutes is where the film scores the most, starting from the fire sequence. And the best is certainly reserved for the climax, especially the ‘BANG’! Simply awesome! And also, the final scene was just too good and the film ends on the correct note!
I haven’t seen any other film of Jean Dujardin but can easily say that this was one of the finest performances of his career! Playing the lead in a silent film in today’s times is anything but a cakewalk but Jean excels and how! His smile, mannerisms, walk…everything was precise and hence he indeed looked as authentic as possible! Bérénice Bejo is extremely likeable as Peppy and raises lot of laughs with her antics and dialogues as well! And both Jean and Bérénice look terrific together!
James Cromwell (Clifton) pitches in a fine performance while John Goodman too did a fine job in his supporting role. Penelope Ann Miller (George’s wife Doris) does fine although she doesn’t have much to do. And special mention should go to Uggie, the dog who was damn cute and who amazes with his funny and also touching behavior!
Being a silent musical, the soundtracks had a very significant role to play in the film. And sure enough, Ludovic Bource’s tracks are melodious and compliment the proceedings well! Guillaume Schiffman’s cinematography was in every way ‘vintage’ and hence totally convincing! Sets too seemed believable. Mark Bridges’ costumes were too good, especially the ones worn by Bérénice! And how can I forget, the film boasts of an excellent choreography…especially in the finale!
Now to the winner of the film, Michael Hazanavicius, the director and writer of the film! Coming with a film of this sort was nothing short of a challenge in all respects. But Michael, with his excellent research and homework, thoroughly excels! Although this was a silent film, the dialogues (in the form of placards on a black screen) were too good. Also, the thematic elements in the film (for instance, dejected George passing through a theatre showing ‘Lonely Days’) was neatly incorporated in the film! Michael’s direction ensures that the film deeply touches viewers, which was the strength of the film! A big thank you for giving us such a lovely cinematic experience!
Some of the best scenes:
1. The premiere of A Russain Affair
2. George meets Peppy for the first time
3. George gets Peppy on board A German Affair
4. Peppy tries George’s coat (excellent!)
5. Peppy gradually becomes a star
6. Peppy goes to see Tears Of Love
7. The auction scene
8. George fires Clifton
9. The fire sequence
10. The last 15 minutes
On the whole, The Artist is simply outstanding! The film boasts of award worthy performances, soundtrack and direction! And sure enough, it has managed to garner 5 Oscar wins, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Original Score and if there was a category of Best Animal In A Supporting Role, then it would have surely gone to Uggie! Go for it…RELIVE THE MAGIC!
My rating-***** out of 5!