REVIEWED BY: Anton Bitel
DVD & BLU-RAY: May 28
“I won’t talk! I won’t say a word!”
This is the opening line of actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) – or at least of the tortured character that he is playing – in Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist. Indeed, George does not speak, his status as an idol of the silent screen underlined by the intertitled form that his words take. But with the Talkies coming, his own refusal to embrace spoken dialogue will also spell his temporary fall from grace, even as Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), the young starlet whom he helps discover, is on the rise, dominating the new age of record sound.
Set around a time, not unlike our own, of economic depression and radical transition in cinema, this reimagining of A Star Is Born (itself remade innumerable times) lovingly recreates the motifs, tropes and forms of the silent era, while slyly insinuating into its monochrome melodrama the synchronised sounds and scores of a later period to joyfully postmodern effect. The result is a witty, self-aware pastiche, full of clever audiovisual gags and cinephiliac allusions, with irresistible charm coursing through its nostalgic veins. Yet far from merely wallowing in an ossified past, in the end this film shows its characters moving on with the times and finding new outlets for expression, always ‘with pleasure’. No wonder The Artist got so many people talking.