By Mike Davis
The Artist is a charming film about the death of the silent film, seen through the downfall of a silent star, and how it remains a visually powerful method of storytelling. Michael Hazanavicius’ film embodies the silent format, while also paying tribute to the early years of cinema. The film is greatly helped by the wonderfully charismatic lead actor Jean Dukardin, and his likeable co-star Bérénice Bejo.
Dujardin plays George Valentin, a popular silent movie star in 1920’s-30’s Hollywood. Bejo plays Peppy Miller, a fun, likeable extra who strikes up a friendship with Valentin. We follow the decline of George’s career, as well as Peppy Miller’s rise to stardom. The story is a great blend of nostalgia, drama, and comedy.
Dujardin’s very physical acting style, as well as his wonderfully expressive face and smile, lend to the films authenticity. He very well could be a tar of the silent era, acting alongside greats such as Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. He doesn’t make the mistake of copying them, but manages to find his own style and character, and embody the style and era in his own right. The film itself is perfectly period and incredibly believable as a silent film, thanks to Hazanavicius’ confident and exciting direction and vision. While some audiences might be a bit weary of a black & white silent film, its clear storytelling and undeniable charm help make it one of the most universally acceptable films of recent years, and a sure contender for Best Picture at the 2012 Academy Awards.