Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, Uggi
Director: Michel Hazanavinius
Running Time: 100 minutes
It is Hollywood and it’s 1927. It is the era of silent movies and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is its biggest star. Audiences adore both him and his best friend, his equally charismatic canine co-star (Uggi).
“Yes, it’s virtually silent, it’s black-and-white, and you might not know the leads. But if you don’t take a chance on this film, we can’t be friends any more”. Chicago Sun-Times
“”The Artist” is the wonder of the age, as much a miracle as “Avatar,” though it comes at things from the totally opposite direction”. Los Angeles Times
“The ending had me on my feet cheering throughout the final credits. I can’t wait to see it again”. The Guardian
“The Artist encapsulates everything we go to movies for: action, laughs, tears and a chance to get lost in another world. How can Oscar resist? ” Rolling Stone
This truly wonderful film really is silent, well almost, and it really is in black and white but, for me it out busts any of the big colourful, multi-dimensional and noisy block-busters of recent times. Director Michel Hazanavinius obviously knows and loves those movies from Hollywood’s first golden era – he loves those old movies so much that he has made his own but not just as a copy or a pastiche, he has made a great film using the language of another time maybe but with all the wit, irony and panache of a great 21st century director doffing his hat to his ancestors. Don’t mistake this for just a bit of nostalgia, it is a masterpiece in the art of film-making. Just look out for that whisky spilt on a glass table top, the sequence where George Valentin sees his reflection in a shop window or the many wrily humourous games played with old cinema conventions best remembered in Singin’ In The Rain, Zorro or The Thin Man.
You don’t need to know anything about Errol Flyne, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, William Powell, Gene Kelly or any of the other vintage Hollywood stars to see just what this film is about – it takes all those familiar stories lines, sends them up, delights in them and gives them a gentle European twist that comes from pure affection and a profound understanding. In the end, it is the director’s mastery of cinema techniques from the long history of film that makes this more than just a charming diversion, it makes it a champagne celebration.
Jean Dujardin was born for his role and fills the largest of silver screens with slap-stick flair, swashbluckling zing, electric charm, acrobatic energy and heaps of pathos found deep below the surface of his wonderfully superficial character, the unstoppable George Valentin. There aren’t enough awards to reward his achievement here.
Bérénice Bejo not only matches him, literally, step by step but has the kind of face that the movie camera was invented to film. The real world isn’t big enough for that widest of grins but up there on the screen, there is never any doubt about her star quality.
The film shouldn’t be big enough for more than two stars of this calibre you may well think but up there with his two human colleagues, is Uggi the dog. His acting skills demand the introduction of a new category in all those film awards ceremonies: Best Dog In A Leading Role.
Uggi is not just cute – he is truly brilliant – out-performing his great predecessors Lassie and Rin Tin Tin but looking back with homage to his only possible equal the delightful Asta (Skippy) from The Thin Man (1934)
If I sound enthusiastic about this movie it is because it is an unmissable delight and that really does mean that you are not allowed to miss it.