Happy accidents can be found throughout history like the story of Percy LeBaron Spencer. Spencer was an engineer who was trying to figure out how to use radar technology to fire intense beams of radiation and turn it into a weapon. Instead, he noticed that food in his vicinity was cooking, pursued the idea and invented the microwave. Spencer’s chances of having children may have been reduced but mankind will be forever grateful for this happy accident when warming up pizza at 9am in the morning or blowing up eggs for clips on YouTube. ‘The Artist’ is like the microwave, an experiment in silent cinema that produces surprising results that will warm your heart.
Set in the 1920s George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is one of the biggest silent movie stars, but the introduction of talking pictures and rise of a young actress named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) threaten his career.
‘The Artist’ features outstanding direction from Michel Hazanavicius who is the mad scientist behind bringing out a silent film in 2012. It’s obvious that Hazanavivius has a passion for the genre and you can see the love on screen. With a majority of modern films reliant on dialogue to explain the story, Hazanavicius shows off his ability to combine the images with music to engage the audience and tell a story – the basics of filmmaking that are often forgotten. It does become a little repetitive at times but for silent film buffs there are plenty of references to the early days of filmmaking, and Hazanavicious lets his film build slowly to a sensational finale, and one of the best endings of all time. It’s very subtle but effective and you can’t help but marvel at the accomplishment. Watching ‘The Artist’ is like being submerged underwater and the ending is like breaking the surface for air and then tap-dancing on it.
The performances are outstanding and Dujardin is the standout. From the minute he appears on screen he’ll have you in the palm of his hand as the charming hero. He’ll also break your heart when things start to go south for the leading man, but you can’t help but slap on a giant foam finger and cheer for him. Bejo brings a refreshing natural beauty to the screen and there are nice appearance from John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Anne Miller.
For all the great human performers though, it’s Uggie the dog that almost eclipses everyone and reminds us of the values of a well-trained animal sidekick. Avoid pet shops on the way home from the cinema to avoid any animal impulse buys after seeing ‘The Artist’.
‘The Artist’ is a wonderful experience but if your mind isn’t open to the idea of a silent film you might want to give it a miss. There are big rewards for those willing to investigate and you might not invent the microwave as a result but you might have a new appreciation for the art of filmmaking.
‘The Artist’ is now showing.
The Popcorn Junkie