"“It deserves as many Oscars as it can get its hands on…”"

There is something incredibly courageous about creating a black and white, silent film amidst contemporary cinematic surroundings. In what is otherwise a blockbuster orientated industry, where franchises and big-money sequels make up most of the movie calendar, it is gratifying to see such bravery paid off, as Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist is arguably the greatest film of the year.

Set in Hollywood in the late 1920’s, we follow the flourishing silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), celebrated and renowned, it appears nothing could go wrong for the talented performer. That is, however, until the ‘talkies’ are introduced…

George is apprehensive of talking within film, and is scared of the new direction that Hollywood is going in. He attempts to rekindle the public’s love for silent cinema with a new production, but the audience have moved on, and the failing production leaves him bankrupt, and worse, forgotten.

However, a ray of light exists in movie star and dancer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), formerly an admirer of George’s talents, and an old friend and colleague, the actress has since risen to stardom, coming into her element, taking the regeneration of cinema in her stride. Peppy, in somewhat of a minority, has faith in George, but convincing a disgruntled, erstwhile movie star to return to acting is no easy task.

There is something terribly romantic and sentimental about The Artist and the old fashioned love story depicted, and yet another example of a filmmaker looking to their past influences, seeking to emulate such inspirations.

Martin Scorsese recently rekindled his love for cinema in Hugo, as did Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris. Maybe an indictment into the state of the industry and the incessant release of money-fuelled productions, caring more for merchandise than the audience’s adulation. This could perhaps be the underlying reason for such nostalgia in film at present, as there certainly seems to be an intrigue and exploration of old cinema.

In order to make The Artist work as a silent picture, and to replicate actual films from the period, it needed to be convincing as a 1920’s production, and thanks to the terrific technicalities, this proves to be the case.

The lighting is fantastically authentic, and really makes the film feel as though it comes straight out of the silent era. This is helped by the traditional camera work, where those in the background are featured in soft focus, leaving all attention on those in the foreground.

You really feel that no shot is wasted, as though everything happens for a reason. Every shot blends into one another, almost as if the film resembles the perfect pop song. Yet nevermind the feature emanating a 1920’s ambience, the audience also feels like they are in an old picture house watching this film. 

Watching as the black and white imagery flickers onto the watching faithful, you can hear the echo of the laughter from the audience, and at its quietest points, even the heater generating from the film projector.

Yet such beautiful imagery is wasted if the acting is below-par, and fortunately this is far from being the case. Dujardin is emphatic and mesmerising as George, possessing a natural talent for performing. When a film is silent so much is reliant on the facial and physical performances of the protagonists, and Dujardin is simply faultless, his face fascinating, his dancing equally as captivating.

Bejo is also wonderfully convincing in the role of Peppy, and John Goodman excels as the director Al Zimmer, and don’t even get me started on Uggy the Jack Russell, the canine co-star starring as George’s sidekick. Fully deserving of its Palme Dog triumph at Cannes Film Festival this year. Yes, it’s a real award.

Talking of awards, The Artist deserves as many Oscars as it can get its hands on at the 84th Academy Awards this coming Spring, as the film majestically depicts the foundations of the industry the very ceremony is based upon.

Yet despite being set in Hollywood, due to having a French director, and a predominantly French cast, it has a worldly cinema feel to it, and although using very few words throughout, it still carries that quirkiness, charm and whimsicality that comes with European cinema.

It’s simply an endearing and engaging production, and I just hope that film goers aren’t intimidated by it being black and white or silent and are willing to give it a chance. It’s extremely accessible to absolutely anyone, as it tells a timeless tale of love and regret, doing so in such an enchanting way. There are just no criticisms that come to mind, and if you are contemplating giving The Artist a go, then do. You won’t regret it.