The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011): France

Reviewed by Linda Lopez. Viewed at the SBIFF.  Lobero Theater.

“The Arist” is a French silent movie filmed in B&W.  Yes, there is no verbal dialogue but the music steps in and becomes the dialogue.  Following the plot is easy and soon you forget that there are no vocal sounds.  Kind of magical in a way.

It’s 1927, and silent screen actor George Valentin (portrayed by Jean Dujardin) is at the highlight of his acting career.  George is married, albeit it’s not the happiest marriage, but his upbeat outlook beams outward with his most amazing smile.  He meets Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo) by chance when she trips in front of him while picking up her purse that accidently dropped from her hands during a press encounter with the paparazzi.   Valentin saves Peppy from any embarrassment and makes a joke about the entire incident.  The next day, “Variety” has a picture of George and Peppy on the front cover asking “Who Is That Girl?”

Of course, Mrs. Valentin isn’t very happy about George with the mysterious girl.  But George, nevertheless, makes light of the situation, and he has his adorable Jack Russell dog (played by Uggie) to help iron out some of the creases in Mrs. Valentin’s dour face.

Peppy meets George again at the movie studio when she decides to try out for a dancing part in a movie.  He remembers her and ends up helping her get the part.  Later alone in George’s dressing room, Peppy sees George’s jacket and hat hanging on a coat rack.  As Peppy admires the jacket and hat (as if George was standing before her), she slips her arm into the jacket sleeve and then hugs herself pretending it’s George hugging her.  When George suddenly walks into the room Peppy is embarrassed to be caught hugging herself.  But, George is able to put Peppy at ease with his usual charm.  Before Peppy goes on her way, George tells her that she needs to have her own special mark if she wants to be a movie star.  So, he takes a pencil and makes a small beauty mark above her lip.

Swiftly, it’s 1929 and talkies are now the new format for movie making, but George refuses to talk which means he has no work.  Simultaneously, Peppy has become a rising star and makes the transition from silent to talking movies with ease.  (It’s interesting to note that George is always seen walking down stairs while Peppy is always walking up stairs.  Hmmm, any symbology here?)

So, how does George make the transition from the old to the new?  To find out more, you must watch this movie yourself.  I assure that anyone who sees this movie will be pleasantly surprised and delighted with how this silent movie can carry you away without any dialogue.

“The Arist” was directed and written by Michel Hazanevicius.  He is married to Berenice Bejo and has made several movies with Jean Dujardin.  This movie has been in numerous film festivals and has received countless awards.  It has been nominated for Oscars in the following categories:  Best Picture, Acting in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Directing.  Not too bad for a silent film!









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