Following the underwhelming Act of Valor, Dr. Film Critic sits down to the Academy Award winning tribute to the art and beauty of silent cinema, known asThe Artist. The only question being, will it live up to the hype it has generated.
In the late 1920’s Hollywood is teaming with countless filmmakers and stars as the world of filmmaking continues to expand and develop over time. Amidst the countless stars is George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a man whose films have won praise across the world, and turned him into a celebrity of the silent screen. Yet as he enjoys the glamorous world of fame and fortune, the developing Hollywood studio system has a much different outlook. Impressed with the work of sound in recent features, Valentin’s company, Kinograph Studios ceases production on all silent features, and hires up and coming actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) as their new find. Refusing to follow in the habits of Kinograph, George quits and throws himself into a new silent jungle adventure, to prove both his starpower and his status without speaking at all.
Released by The Weinstein Company in late November of last year, and the second silent film to win the Academy Award in eighty four years, The Artist continues to delight and entertain audiences well after the conclusion of the award season. A tribute to the long ago era of silent cinema, where actors emoted not through words, but actions and gestures, director Michel Hazanavicius and frequent collaborator Jean Dujardin create one of the most enjoyable and entertaining films of the past year.
In the acting field, the cast is excellent throughout with all of the performers working well within their roles, while at the same time, contributing much to the characters and their direction throughout. As silent cinema superstar George Valentin, Jean Dujardin is superb in his role, conveying both the personal of self-loving, yet amusing entertainer, and as the story progresses, that of a frustrated man who cannot adapt to the changes of the cinematic world. Supporting Dujardin, Berenice Bejo is excellent as Peppy Miller, a young woman, whose chance encounter with Valentin, launches her into a rival career that begins to progress further than his own. John Goodman and James Cromwell are well done in their minor supporting roles as Kinograph’s president and Valentin’s devoted butler/driver. On a smaller note, Valentin’s pet, portrayed by a trained dog named Uggie, has a charming persona as he proves to be one of Valentin’s closest companions.
Production-wise, director Michel Hazanavicius is excellent in his direction, creating a well-defined tone with his camera work which possesses a grand, yet nostalgic scale. His camerawork ranges throughout with some scenes having a relaxed, almost direct manner, while others such as the opening at the premiere of Valentin’s newest film having a grand nature, reminiscent of the speech given by Charles Kane during Orson Welles’s classic, Citizen Kane. At the same time, adding to the excellent direction is the musical score by Ludovic Bource, which has a charming nature as it adds to the emotional drive found within the feature’s structure. Underneath the film’s many positive factors lies a series of faults throughout. Despite various excellent aspects within this production, the film’s pacing proves to feel somewhat stationary, during sequences where neither music, nor inter-titles are present to accommodate the onscreen action.
Overall, The Artist is an excellent, yet charming feature film, which in its story and characters proves to both a tribute and companion-piece to silent cinematic endeavors. From Hazanvicius’ directorial style to the entertaining performances of its two leads, it is a film worth viewing any time of the week.
Final Rating: 10/10.