Friday, 13 January 2012


Roadshow Films
Now Showing

It's 1927. The iconic hillside sign still reads Hollywoodland and the movies - black and white, and silent - are a relatively young entertainment but are at the height of their popularity. And George Valentin (charm personified, Jean Dujardin), a vowel shy of Rudolph and with a passing resemblance to Clarke Gable, is the leading man of choice.

But talkies (movies with sound) are on the way in, and as Valentin refuses to be wired for sound, much to the chagrin of the studio head honcho (John Goodman), his days of stardom seem to be numbered. Conversely, the fortunes of Valentin fan and wannabe starlet, Peppy Miller (a delightful Berenice Bejo), are on the rise.

Peppy fast becomes the face - and voice - of the new generation of Hollywood, and as the world enters the Great Depression, so too does Valentin. Putting all of his money into a silent epic which bombs, he's left penniless and also left by his wife (Penelope Ann Miller); his companion and co-star, Jack (Uggie the scene-stealing dog), remaining steadfast.

But will Valentin's pride be the end of him, or will Peppy, aided by Valentin's loyal chauffeur (James Cromwell) be able to avert a tragedy?

Arriving in cinemas the week after it received 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and Director for Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is riding a wave of popularity, hype and, yes, backlash. But believe everything (positive) you've heard and read about The Artist: it's a beguiling piece of movie-making magic.

Like Martin Scorsese's Hugo, its main Oscars competition, The Artist celebrates cinema; past and present, old technologies and new. Some have dismissed the film by Hazanavicius, previously known for his series of secret agent spoofs, OSS 117, as a novelty and gimmick. That may be, but it's a lovingly crafted, cleverly executed one which he and his cast fully commit to.

Hazanavicius adopts the techniques of silent films - which were never truly silent to begin with - whilst occasionally using sound cleverly and judiciously. He also references a number of Hollywood classics, silent and talkie, most notably Singin' In The Rain, which The Artist shares a basic plotline, a couple of scenes which tip their hat to Citizen Kane. Even a classic line from Greta Garbo gets a run.

But you don't need to be a film buff or historian to enjoy The Artist; it's pleasures are simple but highly rewarding. Nostalgic whilst simultaneously bold - how else to describe a black and white, silent film in the digital age with 3D on the rise? - Michel Hazanavicius's love letter to cinema speaks to anyone whoever fell in love with, or at, the movies.


  1. Beautiful review, man. I intend to see it again at Palace - in a cinema hopefully not as warm - and I think I will enjoy it even more than I already did. The second viewing has been the charm all year. Phenomenal performances - including Bejo, who is unlikely to cause an upset, but damn I wouldn't mind if she did.

  2. Thanks Andy. I feel that I should have written more given that I LOVE it so, so much. I do hope people ignore their misgivings and the hype - if possible - and go and see it. Will be interested to hear the thoughts of the Palace patrons. Bejo is unlikely to upset but Jean Dujardin is definitely in the race.

  3. Agreed-great review. Bejo is fantastic, and it's always good to see Missi Pyle. I thought it was over indulgent to include the line at the end where Dujardin speaks with his French accent. Although I enjoyed it immensely, I am on team Hugo.

  4. Spoilers! ;) I'm really glad (and surprised) you liked it, Aaron. We can still be friends, although your Team Hugo membership is a worry :)

  5. Throwaway spoiler. Oops. Hugo made me cry tears of joy! A rarity.