Published 24 April 2012
The Artist (PG, 2011)
The Artist not only won the Oscar for Best Film this year, but also awards for directing, costume design, original music score, and Best Actor for French actor Jean Dujardin as silent film star George Valentin. This film has also collected many other awards and now has the record for the most Césars for any French film. While The Artist is quite fun to watch, it is a one-off novelty movie, given it is a [mostly] silent film. I believe its recognition has been more to do with this, and the fact that in the Academy Awards there are now more movies in the line-up for Best Picture and it is difficult for any film to win unless it totally dominates the Academy's imagination.
The Artist is really a homage to the silent film era and in that sense is nostalgic for a different Hollywood era. I thought Jean Dujardin's comment about film itself was illuminating. "I discovered that silent film is almost an advantage. You just have to think of the feeling for it to show. No lines pollute it. It doesn't take much - a gaze, an eyelash flutter - for the emotion to be vivid."
The story reminded me of some elements of my favourite musical Singin' in the Rain as this also has a silent film star struggling with the idea of the new ‘talkies'. The film plays on the idea of the ‘It Girl" - aptly named Peppy Miller, who this time is well-positioned to take on the talkies and move ahead as the star for a new age. John Goodman has a very apt supporting role as the movie mogul and helps to illustrate how the movie industry in the developing years was very much a tight-knit community run by a benevolent dictator.
As I stated at the front, it is fun to watch, but while I could watch Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds again and again, once was enough for The Artist.