The Artist

Art & Culture

This is the first film I saw at Toronto (2011), and it's one of the best films I've seen in a very long time. There's no way it could be improved, and I hope everyone will go and see it. Yes, it's that good.

Before I go any further, I should point out that this is a silent film, in black and white, and if you let that put you off, you're a doofus. It opens in 1927, at the premiere of the new film starring Georg Valentin, a dead ringer for Douglas Fairbanks. He may be slightly past his prime, but he swashbuckles like nobody's business and women swoon at his feet. One such is Peppy Miller, an ingenue who wants to make it in the film world, and as her career takes off, George's is derailed by the coming of sound, which he dismisses as a flash in the pan. But as we know, sound came, and silents vanished, and the film tells what happens to George and Peppy.

Summarised like that, it sound slightly stale and predictable, but the charm of the film is the energy with which the whole thing is constructed. Put it this way, it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Singin' In The Rain, the best ever film about silent movies. And where SITR had colour, singing, dancing and dialogue, The Artist achieves its magic without the help of any of those. But director Michel Hazanavicius (no, I hadn't heard of him, either) has such a passion for cinema, both past and present, that he draws us into this world which he mirrors so lovingly and convincingly. What's so wonderful is that we are made to care about these people, who never speak, and act in ways which are oldfashioned and even artificial. And did I mention there's a dog that steals every scene its in; plus John Goodman and James Cromwell (the farmer in Babe).

I'm deliberately not telling you any more than you need to know, because part of the charm of the film are the surprises that crop up periodically, but I do insist on you going to see it. I don't give many new films 9 out of 10, but that's the only way in which I can convey quite how much I loved this film.


Philip Raby

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