crowd favourite at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival®, Michel
Hazanavicius’ The Artist is a love
letter to 1920s Hollywood that resurrects silent cinema as a powerful and
complex storytelling medium. Shot entirely in black and white, without dialogue
and utilizing a traditional 1.33 aspect ratio, the film remains faithful to the
period it represents, avoiding the trap of pastiche through a sincere
appreciation of the cinematic possibilities offered by classic silent film.
Dujardin (Little White Lies) plays
George Valentin, an actor whose matinee-idol good looks and arrogant but
good-natured charm evokes Douglas Fairbanks at his best. George is at the
height of his career in 1927, when he accidentally bumps into a beautiful and
aspiring actress named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), and the ensuing press
coverage sets her on the path to unexpected fame.
however, quickly finds himself on the opposite track, as sound begins to
dominate the screens. Refusing to accept this modern innovation, he finances
his own silent feature in 1929 and loses it all. His wife leaves him and his
fans forget him. Broken and alone, George fades into the shadows of old
the same time, new It-girl Peppy finds herself at the forefront of the sound
phenomenon. As her star status rises, she never forgets the man who gave her
the start she needed; and she resolves to help George in any way she can.
tells a familiar
story, reminiscent of classics like Sunset
Boulevard and Singing In The Rain,
but Hazanavicius and cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman breathe new life into
an old tale. Their skilful handling of a style that could easily have turned
into camp enables for a newfound appreciation not only for silent cinema, but
also for melodrama and the intense emotional effects the genre can deliver.
Above all, The Artist offers a joyous
look back to a golden age, and will leave audiences nostalgic for a cinematic
form that, as Hazanavicius proves, hasn’t lost its resonance.
black-and-white throwback to cinema’s silent era may seem steeped in fusty
nostalgia, but it glitters and gleams with utterly of-the-moment wit and
romantic zest.” – Anne Hornaday, The