The Artist: "With Pleasure"

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer:    Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin
               Berenice Bejo
               John Goodman
               James Cromwell
               Penelope Ann Miller
               Missi Pyle
               Malcom McDowell
               Uggie the Dog
Rating:    *****

Release Date: Out Now

The Artist is one of those films that has the whole world talking, people are storming out because of it, and I'll admit when it first started I was hesitant. Luckily though, you get so indulged and engaged that you forget that it is in fact a silent move, and it truly is beautiful.

Jean Dujardin, who plays George Valentin, is  famous in France but internationally unknown. Valentin is a silent movie star with the high energy and self-confidence of the marvellous Gene Kelly. We first meet George in 1927, embracing his audience and hogging the stage at a premiere,paying much more attention to his pet Jack Russell terrier (Uggie) than his disgruntled co-star Constance (Pyle). His career is booming and everything is perfect, except for maybe a hindered relationship with his wife Doris (Miller). After meeting one of George's most devoted fans, Peppy Miller (Bejo),  we discover that she is an aspiring actress but is stuck working as an extra. With a strained relationship at home, George manages to stop himself from having an affair, but does help give Peppy her big break.

When the 'Talkies' arrive George finds his stardom waning, but he is so sure that sound is a fad, that he puts all his own money into making a silent movie.This plan fails, and he loses all his money, along with his wife, house and noble chauffeur Clifton (Cromwell). George is forced to watch jealously as his former studio boss Al Zimmer (Goodman) does all he can to turn Peppy into a talkies superstar. His life is going down hill, and as he turns to drink and becomes a recluse, he soon considers ending it, but with the help of love and his super smart dog, everything ends well; in fact so well, it ends in a dance sequence and a bit of...talking.

The Artist is one of those films that rarely comes around, but when they do they're normally cinematic perfection, and The Artist truly is. 2012 really has kicked off with some superb films, and this one is no different, it's an uplifting movie that I know I will watch again and again. It's a French film, set in Hollywood looking at the transition from silent movies to 'Talkies'. I suspect it will clean up at the Oscars, most definitely picking up Best Film and Best Director, as well as countless technical awards. It truly is a work of cinematic genius, it is filled with heart, charm and wit, and each scene is filled with joy and literally had me smiling throughout. Even the credits at the beginning made me warm and fuzzy, they're reminiscence of old Hollywood films was absolutely perfect.

One of the main themes throughout the film is the celebration of love, love between man and woman, man and dog, and even man and film. It’s a silent movie, and in black and white, and despite it putting off some idiots out there, it really doesn't matter, because in reality you don't need it. The soundtrack is so beautiful, entertaining and emotive it actually tells the story for you, and makes you feel the emotions that words would normally provide. The Oscar-worthy orchestral score is by Ludovic Bourse, filled with elements of the Twenties and Thirties, but with an extract from Bernard Herrmann’s score for Vertigo and a nod to Franz Waxman’s Sunset Boulevard. One of the standout scenes was when star George Valentin (Dujardin) has a terrible nightmare where everything emits sound, everything except him. The clever use of sound effects brings the scene to life and actually gives your own ears a shock.

The style is truly breathtaking, it look and feels more like the sophisticated, glamorous, black-and-white of the Forties’ golden era, but that doesn't take away for the 20's set move at all. The colour and mood is actually magical and the film is a true masterpiece of art deco design. Colour really would have detracted from the films astonishing beauty, and taken away any credibility. It is a reminder of cinema past, and has hints of one of the film industries all time greatest, Singin’ In The Rain. That moment when sound came to cinema, making (and destroying) many a career.

The film is an affectionate look back at many of Hollywood's classics, with its brilliant storytelling, deliberate naivety and seemingly effortless charm it really is a masterpiece. The leads are really superb, if not a tad arrogant, but that is perfect for the characters. Dujardin is known in France as a comic actor, but he shows off what an amazing range he has in this film. He has an extraordinary ability to overact, as well as play for real at the same time. Bejo, a fabulous Argentine actress who is married to The Artist’s director, is a real find, a true comedienne with the goofy charm of the old Hollywood starlets. 

This is a wonderfully entertaining movie, but also an extremely important one.In the midst of remakes, 3D and CGI it shows the younger generation, me included, where cinema began, and that all these fancy gimmicks do not a film make. You can have as many explosions or robots as you want, but without heart and a decent storyline what you have is not a piece of cinematic history. This is a sweet, poignant and very funny movie. It's filled with charm and wit, and has certainly brightened my start to 2012. My only issue is it has made me miss old classic Hollywood cinema, I might have to have a marathon of classics to help me through.

The Artist - Trailer