Thursday, 12 January 2012

The best film currently showing in cinemas is a silent film.

A silent film about silent film. A postmodern silent film, maybe, but a silent film nonetheless.

It's not pretentiously arty. It's not boringly old fashioned. It's a brilliant film that anyone can enjoy. And a silent film. Take that in your cake and eat it, risk-averse Hollywood studio type people.

It's 1927 and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a beloved silent film actor who loves to put on a show for his cheering audience. He's also a bit of an old flirt and helps kick-start the career of aspiring young actress Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). But the Golden Age of silent cinema is declining and, as "talkies" come to Hollywood, Valentin finds his stardom waning, his marriage crumbling and his fortunes running dry. Meanwhile, Miller is the talk of the nation with her popular sound films.

Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist has romance, laughter, sadness, spectacle and a dog. The best dog in all of cinema. Really, it's amazingly cute and can act damn well. Give it a dog Oscar. Back to the point: The Artist has all the necessary ingredients, not just for a perfect homage to silent cinema, but also for a perfect film in its own right; a story which can't fail to entertain, enthrall and emotionally affect any viewer, whether or not they're a fan of silent cinema.

Looking at it as a homage to silent cinema, it's clear that Hazanavicius has a great amount of love for the era. The changing times are beautifully brought to the screen with stunning detail, using the true stories of silent film actors finding themselves without a job to encapsulate the glamourous period within a powerful story of love and pride. For the film historians, there are a good deal of clever nods to the silent film era, although I doubt I noticed them all myself, and loving humour is also drawn from the period; the series of failed takes, as a dinner party scene is alternately bungled by extras falling into the wrong shot and Valentin dancing with Miller for too long is a perfect mix of humour, romance and homage, making it an utterly unforgettable scene.

The Artist is a beautiful film which broke through my hard emotional shell and touched me (I didn't cry, honest... *looks shiftily around, asserting macho dignity*).

Plus, it also has John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell and a scene shamelessly ripped straight out of Citizen Kane, which was slightly odd.

I want to see The Artist again, right now. So should you.


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