Tuesday, 17 January 2012


I doubt it's escaped anyone's notice, but awards season is upon us, and one of the films expected to do particularly well (by which I mean sweep the floor, essentially) is The Artist, a black and white silent film, which I went to see last night.

The film follows silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who finds himself becoming obselete with the arrival of the talkies. People don't want to hear him speak, they want fresh meat, fresh faces for this fresh technology. One such fresh face is Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who finds herself shooting to the top, thanks, ironically enough, to George.

I've only ever seen one silent film before (and it was shown in a classroom with twenty-odd thirteen-year-olds who had utterly no intention of watching it) and actually found it a very strange experience at first. To see people talking on-screen but not hear it was very bizarre, but as I became engaged in the story, I stopped noticing it. The fact that it was a silent film didn't make it any harder to follow, although being able to lip-read made it amusing in a few places. Also, don't be alarmed by the silence as the production company logos/emblems are shown, that's supposed to happen. I was expecting music, and was a little concerned that somebody had forgotten to switch the sound on.

I won't pretend to know anything much about films or the history of cinema, but I found the film charming, there's no other word for it. I was, at first, a little confused as to where the film was set, it claims to be in Hollywoodland, but looked at times more like New York or London. I also found it a little strange that both the main characters were clearly French. Perhaps that was normal with silent movies, but I'd expected it to be a case of French actors playing American characters.

Overall, I would recommend the film, although several reviews I've read suggest that it probably won't impress fans of silent movies, as I found it to be charming, funny, and actually quite moving. It's also very easy to follow, so don't be put off by thinking you won't understand what on earth is going on.

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