Silence is golden. An era I never knew, but one which I’ve encountered as I dipped into the past a little. The Artist tells a silent story of a silent man who has to witness and experience the torrential downpour of the Talkies. It’s good to talk, but what of sorely relying on the body to express and the music to immerse?
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a famous silent film actor loved by all. Each movie is a hit and girls fall at his smile. He always venture with his adorable pet dog who also has a great talent to express, and the two are at the top of the world. Then the Talkies appear, the silent era put to death. George isn’t having this though and plans to make his own silent movie, a great movie will always be appreciated, right? Unfortunately his friend Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) has a talkie film out on the same night. The public makes their vote and George falls from the top into a pit of misery. It is all done in silent form and black and white, and the movement and expressions tell the tale just as well as any voice would. The wonderful music which manages to set the tone perfectly on each scene is the perfect complement to the energetic display. Everything is just so full of life, the performances bring any situation to life. Some viewers who watched The Artist demanded a refund because it was silent. George wouldn’t be happy.
When everything falls apart and George must resort to a bottle to keep him going, we see Peppy carry on with her talkie stardom. The second half centres on George’s caring friends who want to get him out of his rut and George’s despair. Again the way George’s smile fades and his appearance becomes messy, no words are needed to truly express the misfortune, emotion and progression. Cards to display what the characters have to say aren’t common and they tend to be more comedic than telling.
Some scenes can over stay their welcome in the earlier segments and I felt their was too much silent mouth yapping going on when they could have been displaying the story with different imagery, but The Artist is largely clever, carefully pieced together and a joy to watch. It places comic moments with perfect precision and the moving moments which bring in tension or upset are used with great care. It plays well on the silent film era and doesn’t mark talkies down as being a great evil, instead focusing on George’s pride being the main obstacle to overcome.
A fantastic tale of romance, change and acceptance. A shame many will never give it the time of day. The mass public will have already made their decision before they even give it a chance. A great movie is a great movie, silent or talkie.