The word has been massively overused in the hype surrounding this film, especially by me since I saw it a while ago, but The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius really is magical, magical, magical.
Now I will try my best to be spoiler free here.
Set during the ‘Golden Era’ of the Hollywood 20’s, we see the gradual fall of silent movie king George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) as sound is introduced to the pictures and the rise of young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) as she becomes a star. Their relationship is heartbreakingly romantic, in that old fashioned, classic way but it is far from schmaltzy and is handled with a measured subtlety.
The film is, for the most part, without dialogue and titled cards are used when needed. However there are a few wonderful little tricks used, I won’t say what they are but suffice to say we are often reminded that what we are watching is not just pastiche or homage but a post-post-post modern way of story telling, whereby we know that we are part of something which could only be made now or at least, could definitely not have been made then. It’s all rather meta but done in a way which is both surprising and hilarious as opposed to obvious and pretentious.
I really don’t recall being so touched and uplifted by a film for a long time, the soundtrack alone is weepingly lovely and every cast member (including John Goodman, James Cromwell and a sneaky cameo from Malcolm McDowell) appears to be having tremendous fun.
It seems funny, maybe even ironic, that a film so steeped in cinematic in-jokes, nostalgic references, immaculate period detail and homage upon homage, could feel so fresh and unique at the same time. I’m not sure if a film like this could be made again with the same impact but I do believe that it’s not just a very clever gimmick, it is so much more and deserves all the praise it gets. For anyone who loves film as much as I do it will be a treat and a delight, for anyone who sits through this film with no hint of joy or glimmer of smile then I pity you dearly, you poor bastards.