Posted by: greercn | December 14, 2011

The Artist

Rarely will you get to see anything as original, risk-taking and different as “The Artist”. The chances taken here do not always work, but mostly, they do. Even when there are unsuccessful attempts at innovative film-making on screen, these are incredibly pleasing to watch.

It helps if you know an awful lot about movies, because there is so much deft homage to the greatest moments of Japanese, Russian and Hollywood film that your senses are reeling.

It’s a silent movie in black and white. You really have to see this because it’s wonderful.

Silent film star George Valentin is making a movie when he meets Peppy Miller, an aspiring starlet. There’s a brand new take on “A Star Is Born” with a special set of sub-plots for recession-hit times.

As George, Jean Dujardin (Ludo in “Little White Lies”) manages to channel bits of Rudolph Valentino, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and some Errol Flynn. You totally believe he is an actor in 1927, just as talking pictures are about to become the next big thing.

Berenice Bejo plays Peppy. Director Michel Hazanavicius has children with her in real life and you can feel the love of the camera as it follows her.

Jean and Berenice are very comfortable with each other on screen – the physicality and sense of a relationship is beautifully portrayed – and it turns out they made a film together for Michel which was a French spy thriller set mostly in Cairo called “OSS- 117” which I shall have to seek out. The trailer looks fun and, even though I follow French and Belgian film closely,  I missed it.

John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller, James Cromwell and Ed Lauter are in this too.

It’s all just visually lovely. There is even a little dog that looks so much like the HMV dog as is utterly adorable.

We are in some of the same territory as the silent movie section of “Hugo” but this is a picture for adults with sophisticated themes and big ideas.

It manages to combine what French and Belgian films do best in creating a sense of intimacy and character with the unique big Hollywood movie punch.

The music and dance numbers are pretty great too. I could quibble that “Pennies From Heaven” wasn’t written until 1936, but I am obsessive about music and continuity. Most of the costumes, hats and sets are perfect. I love all the different hats, too.

Alliance and the French and Belgian partners on this are all to be congratulated. I went to a special preview at the Romford Vue, courtesy of ShowFilmFirst and secretsales.com

As always, Romford’s Vue is very comfy although the screen was in complete darkness before the movie started and this led to people bumping into each other and nearly falling over. It may be a clever tie-in to the movie or a forgetful staff member, but I really recommend this is not done again. You need to be able to find a seat and you shouldn’t crash into anyone as you are doing that.

It’s incredibly challenging not to fill the silence at the start of the movie, but you are soon drawn in. My friend only looked at his watch an hour in and I noted that I did so too a few minutes later. Mostly, we were both enthralled in a film that didn’t appeal to me much, initially, on the basis of the hype and the trailer.

Please, please let these two actors and this director make whatever they want because they create a really original and glorious movie.

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