wogma rating: Owner's Pride! (?)
If you answer this question – How do two heavily French-accented actors pull off a silent film as a homage to the cinema of the 1920s – with an, “Wow, I have to find out”, you know The Artist has won its battle. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo play George Valentin and Peppy Miller; the most charming lead pair you’d have come across in a while. Watch the film for its ability to make you feel nostalgic and genuinely smile, at almost every second.Read more
It’s a bit overwhelming to write a review of a film that has won 3 Academy awards barely 4 hours ago. Every person around me is throwing their opinions on The Artist – "Did it deserve 3 awards?" "How it’s preposterous that so-and-so did not watch the film over the weekend." "How it’s actually an overrated rom-com" and the likes. While the Academy awards usually bring about healthy debates post its early morning broadcast, this year The Artist has been favored by most. Allow me to reason out why.
The Artist is set during the mid-1920s. The plot seems adapted from films like Sunset Boulevard and Singin’ in the Rain (which talks about the rise and fall of a silent superstar with the introduction of the talkies), but where the The Artist stands out is in its lead pair’s ability to convince you that you’re actually back in the day. Not once does it give you the feeling of watching a homage film and primarily for that, The Artist holds your complete attention in its first 5 minutes.
Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a famous silent star with the charming smile. It’s one of those pre-requisites that the lead actors walked around with: a charming smile, a thin mustache, a tap-dancing ability and you’re good to go. In Valentin’s case, he also has a pet dog, Uggy, who remains faithful to him till the last breath of the film (admittedly also my favorite character in the film, as he reminds me so much of Odie from the Garfield series). Anyhow, Valentin bumps into Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) at a movie and they have a moment.
What follows reminds me severely of a scene in The Social Network The Social Network, Eduardo mentions how Sean Parker made his biggest contribution to Facebook by excluding the ‘The’. Valentin in all his star wisdom adds a mole above Miller’s lip with a pencil. It’s this same mole that takes her places, that turns her into a superstar just when talkies have started to trend.
We then see the fall of Valentin, his charming smile stands as nothing compared to the epidemic of hearing one’s favorite superstar speak. Every dramatic emotion is played out beautifully with orchestrated background music – from Valentin’s silent fears manifested in his dreams, to his tragic loss of fame as compared to Miller’s instant shot at success. And yet, every time they both appear on screen you wonder when all troubles will come to an end, and when life will only be about the dances.
Berenice Bejo is downright lovable; you can see why the audiences adore her. She appeals to all also because she’s not the typical poofed-blonde-hair, curvaceous, uptight heroine (although a rarity now). Peppy Miller, on the other hand gives every woman who aspires to be a Hollywood star the permission to dream.
The real winners of The Artist, then are not Dujardin and Bejo but the characters George Valentin and Peppy Miller, because together they make you fall in love with the movies. They make you forget you’re being told a story that is not new, and make you concentrate on the medium that is being chosen to tell it. Together they make you believe no matter what the mode The Artist, cannot be made without a charming lead pair.
Where The Artist holds a disadvantage is addressing an audience that is so used to verbosity. It does tend to drag a bit, in parts where you have managed to overcome the awe of experiencing a silent film. That is so because even in similarly plotted films, the medium is contemporary and the silent era is only being referred to and discussed.
Whereas, The Artist uses the very same medium to tell its story – the 4:3 aspect ratio reminds us of noisy projectors through which the movies were screened, glow lighting that created a unreal halo around the superstar of the film and heavily orchestrated music that serves as your cue to emote. For its sheer courage and innovation then, you willingly keep debates and speculation on hold, and MUST watch The Artist on the big screen – because anything else would be a crime. But more importantly because The Artist makes you fall in love with the movies all over again.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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