Winter 2012 Features series
Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 4:00pm
Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 7:00pm
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Screenplay by Michel Hazanavicius
Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, and John Goodman
Rated NR ·
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.
Jean Dujardin (Little White Lies) plays George Valentin, an actor whose matinee idol good looks and arrogant but good-natured charm evoke 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. George, 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 Hollywood. At 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.
The Artist 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, has not lost its resonance.
“This is a silent movie in black-and-white, and if it were only that, it would be a pleasant novelty. But The Artist isn’t a nostalgia trip, nor is it a scolding admonishment to honor the past. Instead, it’s a picture that romances its audience into watching in a new way — by, paradoxically, asking us to watch in an old way. The Artist is perhaps the most modern movie imaginable right now.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline