74- The Artist [8.5]
Hollywood 1927. George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky’s the limit – major movie stardom awaits. The film tells the story of their interlinked destinies.
The first act of The Artist is incredibly endearing. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as the numerous clever reveals as to what the audience is watching morphed from one thing to another. There are great pleasures throughout (including the weirdness of seeing John Goodman and Harvey Weinstein’s names appear in the throwback opening credits) and I believe you’d be hard pressed to not laugh a few times. The pure charisma of leads Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo is enough to carry this gorgeous black and white film.
Ludovic Bource’s score is a real treasure, as it works earnestly in conjunction with the film instead of being a whimsical wink at what a silent film score would be almost a century after they were made. In fact, one of the only meta instances in The Artist takes place in a dream sequence that serves as a metaphor for George’s fears, which works in respect to the story.
The Artist became problematic for me as George falls into self-pity, as we are left with no reason for Peppy to stay awestruck and in love with him as he begins his descent into depression. What keeps him mildly likeable is his companion dog, who gives one of the best animal performances on screen. Though it may seem gimmicky to do a largely silent black and white film in 2011, The Artist works as an enjoyable, if not slightly flawed love letter to the movies of yesteryear.