NOTE: This review contains spoilers.
Some time last year, I thought to myself, “Why doesn’t anyone make a silent film today? It would be interesting to see a contemporary filmmaker’s take on early cinema.” And then The Artist came along …
I had been looking forward to seeing The Artist since it screened at Cannes mid-last year. The film follows 1927 silent screen superstar George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) as he holds firmly onto his principles at the expense of his career in the wake of the emergence of “talkies.” Following a chance encounter with one of his fans, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who bumps into him (literally), she is immediately bitten by the Hollywood bug. As her acting career takes off in the talking pictures, Valentin’s begins to flounder. It’s the stuff A Star Is Born is made of.
Typically, I’m a sucker for movies about movies, and being a classic film buff, I was excited about the prospects of watching a modern-day silent film set in the ’20s, a pivotal period in early cinema. Having just watched it, I can say that it’s a terrific film. As is the case with any great film, all elements come together to make one great picture—a reminder that the sum should always be greater than its parts. The film, much like its leading man Dujardin, is debonair, classy, and charming. The beautiful black-and-white cinematography by Guillaume Schiffman merges with some dazzling performances by Dujardin, Bejo, and John Goodman (who plays a Cecil B. DeMille-type studio executive).