Movie Review: The Artist

Movies about movies are an exciting experiment; the most recent being our own The Dirty Picture. But they are risky too. However, when they are in the hands of expert craftsmen, they metamorphosise into cinematic gems that tend to leave the audience dazzled and spellbound. Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist is a splendid throwback to the movies of the late 20's, where in began the so-called golden age of Hollywood - the period when the silent films made their way for the talkies.

After a première of his film The Russian Affair, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is busy interacting with the journalists and posing for photos when a young lady among the crowd, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), gets accidentally pushed into him as she bends down to pick the autograph book she had dropped. George takes it in his stride with humour and the next day the media goes berserk with the incident alongside a catchy headline 'Who's That Girl?'. Later on, with a little help from George, Peppy reaches unexpected stardom when the talkie era commences as George, who refuses to move ahead with the times, fades into oblivion. Will George be able to find his feet once again? Watch the movie for the answers.

With title cards, pantomime and resounding jazzy backgrounds, The Artist literally transports you back in time. Except for the last scene, the 100 minute black and white picture is truly a silent film. Coming to the performances, Jean Dujardin is mind-blowing as the vain George Valentin, who is dismissive of the changes in film-making and believes that silent films are the order of the day. Dujardin makes one immensely sympathize with the character despite all its flaws. Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller is 'peppy(i)ness' personified and traces the transformation from 'Who's That Girl?' to 'Who Doesn't Know That Girl?' pitch-perfectly. Among others, James Cromwell as George's driver Clifton impresses in his role, and even the dog (Uggie) gets to play an adorable part.

Director Michel Hazanavicius shows tremendous skill in handling the subject material in store and pays a rich tribute to the movies of the bygone era. Though the pace gets slackened intermittently and is overall predictable, Hazanavicius manages to pull off a crescendo with the climactic tap dance, the scene becoming the highlight of the movie. Inconsistent title cards and the fact that we never get to see Miller talk in spite of acting in talkie films may be considered as the only faults in an otherwise unblemished cinematic masterpiece (may be I am being too nitpicky here!). With the Oscar awards announcement a night away, The Artist (nominated for 10 Oscars) deserves all the praise it has garnered and is a must-watch for all movie buffs!

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