It appears that some people in film are nostalgic for the old days of movie magic, with Hugo and The Artist topping the “best of lists” of almost everyone. I didn’t know much about The Artist before viewing it last night, except that it was silent, in black and white, and charming. And, oh man, is it charming!
(Spoilers after jump)
The Artist opens at the apex of silent film star George Valentin’s career (Jean Dujardin) and the beginning of the mesmerizing motor-mouth Peppy Miller’s (Bérénice Bejo, with all the adorableness of Audrey Tautou and none of the elvish twee). Peppy and George meet (and dance) cute in what turns out to be George’s last success, A German Affair, as talkies become all the rage and silent films yesterday’s news. With new star Peppy and her talking cohorts dominating the big screen, George loses his livelihood, his fame, his wife, his fortune, ending up alone, drunk, and veering towards madness. In a fit of rage, he sets fire to all of his films, nearly dying when realizing what he’s done and attempting to save his only evidence of he and Peppy’s time together. Peppy, who has carried a torch for George to the point of buying up all of his auctioned belongings, nurses the fallen artist as he recovers from his accident. She even puts her own career on the line to get a film for them to star in, in a hilarious “whose on first”-style back and forth with John Goodman’s film exec character. George’s pride, however, prevents him from accepting this opportunity or Peppy’s goodwill safekeeping of his treasures. George is so embarassed and distraught that he attempts suicide, until Peppy saves him from himself. And, we discover, the public from missing out on the most wonderful, smile-inducing act in the entire world, movie tap-dancing!
Despite The Artist being a bit prolonged in parts (e.g. The scene where George finds his stuff could have been merged with his suicide scene, even if Crazy Car Chase ™ would have been cut) and the depth of George’s despair (alcoholism, arson, suicide) basically brushed off by a kiss and a tap-dancing routine, it really is a splendid joy of a film. Uplifting, moving, and innovative yet lovingly reverential… Despite some criticism of the soundtrack being too reverential (No, Kim Novak, that is not what rape means. It isn’t even plagiarism, since the film paid to use the score.), I found it to be perfectly so. I wanted to come home and put on some It Happened One Night or some Fred Astaire and bask in the happy glow I left the theater with. The Artist is, as the French would actually not really say, Très magnifique!
The Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), and Best Supporting Actress (Berenice Bejo)
Yes, yes, yes, and yes. All nominations are totally deserved and I would be happy for any of them to walk away with the gold-plated statuette. Well, I am really pulling for Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, but if The Artists sweeps, I will not throw a fit. Now if George Clooney and his eyebrow smirk win Best Actor, I might be annoyed. I haven’t seen The Descendants, so I have no real right to judge, but I’ve said already and will say again, Gary Oldham gave the best performance of his full-of-great-performances career in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. If not him, then Jean Dujardin and his almost completely silent and engrossing performance should walk away with the statue.