“The Artist” movie review
A love letter to silent cinema, “The Artist” features the career of a Douglas Fairbanks-esque movie star and the effect the introduction of sound has on his career. In a gimmicky but brilliant move, the black-and-white film is itself a silent movie.
Jean Dujardin is all smiles and bright eyes as silent movie star George Valentin as the movie begins. He’s perfectly cast; he absolutely looks as if he could have existed in 1927 cinema. His slicked-back hair and perfectly styled mustache highlight his charming, roguish style and his devil-may-care attitude. The Jack Russell terrier that plays Valentin’s sidekick is adorable and a high point of the film.
Valentin’s chance encounter with dancer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) gives her career a kick-start, but before long, the sound movies preferred by studio head Al Zimmer (John Goodman) leave Valentin on his own.
Valentin sinks his money into one last gamble, a silent film that will show the world why he should still be a star. But times have changed, and Valentin finds himself in worse and worse straits, certainly not helped along by the stock market crash. Meanwhile, the appropriately named Peppy Miller becomes a star, with her zest for life taking hold on the screen. Technology marches forward, creating opposite effects in the lives of these two actors.
The film is a good reminder of how the events of yesterday have echoes into the present. In the film, technology displaces jobs, and Wall Street hubris leads to suffering of many everyday people; it’s not hard to see why that might still have relevance today.
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