No loud explosions, no screeching car chases, not even a single angry argument. Silence is the key in The Artist and with 10 Academy Award nominations including Actor, Supporting Actress, Director and Picture the proof is in the words. I don’t know where or how the idea for this film came to its writer and director Michel Hazanavicius but it was a brilliant idea. This movie isn’t about the making of an old black and white silent film, which may have made it easier to make, it is a black and white silent film. Well thought out and put together The Artist is all about its title character, George Valentin played by Jean Dujardin. George is a famous silent film star, while attending an opening of his film he literally runs into a young woman whose name is Peppy Miller played by Berenice Bejo and we quickly learn she wants to be an actress. They end up meeting again when she gets a job as a dancer on his new film, and then things begin to turn for the worst.
It is 1928 and sound has just been added to the moving pictures and now audiences can hear what the actors that they have been watching actually sound like. The head of the studio wants to be a part of this new invention and in order to do that he wants to get rid of the old faces, George and make the new ones, Peppy bigger. If they don’t want George then he will just make his own movie with his own money and decides to let the people decide if they “…want to hear actors talk” (Jack Warner). Turns out they do and as George‘s stardom falls, Peppy’s raises.
The story just gets more emotional from there. I laughed, cried and even got a little scared. I came to care and worried about George Valentin while his life changed around him and watching Mr. Dujardin perform without a word was a real joy. Spoiler Alert-In one scene George discovers that everything around him makes sound, including his cute dog companion but then when he tries to talk nothing comes out. I admit this movie wasn’t what I thought it would be when I first heard about it, it was much better. I have seen a few silent films in my viewing life for example the very first Oscar winner Wings and in comparison this was JUST like watching any made from its time and that you could now find in any old studio film vault. I also have to say that my favorite part of watching this silent film besides the action was the inner monologue that was going on in my head during the non-words on screen scenes. The parts where you have to guess what they are saying and I am sure I was right on.
This new film taken from a piece of the industry’s history is perfectly made. From the style of the 1920s and 30s to the excellent and already award winning acting done by its lead and others including John Goodman and James Cromwell it is all worth seeing. Please take a trip back in time and go see The Artist.