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Blog Posted in avatar   Johnny Summerton's Blog

"The Artist", cinema at its silent best - and it's French

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Oct 13, 2011 in Entertainment
If there's one film - just one single film - you should absolutely go to see this year it has to be "The Artist".
French critics have been heaping praise on it ever since it premiered at the Cannes film festival in May when Jean Dujardin took home the award for Best Actor.
Director Michel Hazanavicius' idea might seem completely potty.
At a time when 3D is all the rage, special FX, music, BIG Hollywood names, colour, the kitchen sink - you name it - are all part of what supposedly tickles the fancy of film-goers, what does the 44-year-old director, screenwriter and producer come up with?
A film in black and white of course - and a silent one to boot!
Hazanavicius apparently had the idea of making a black and white silent movie as far back as the early 90s but couldn't get the funding together.
Jean Dujardin (screenshot from  The Artist  trailer)
Jean Dujardin (screenshot from "The Artist" trailer)
The Weinstein Company
It wasn't until after the success in France of his two spy spoof movies "OSS 117: Le Caire nid d'espions" ("OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies") in 2006 and "OSS 117: Rio Ne Répond Plus" ("OSS 117: Lost in Rio") in 2009, both of which starred Dujardin, that Hazanavicius sent the script of "The Artist" to the producer Thomas Langmann, who managed to get together a €10 million budget.
The film was shot at Warner Studios in Los Angeles in just 35 days, a feat which Hazanavicius admits, didn't really give him a chance to appreciate fully exactly how "mythical" the setting was.
"It was very short and I didn't have the time to be clear about where I was," he said.
"I had to keep to a very tight schedule and convince those working on the film to adapt to the French method of movie making."
The result? A romantic comedy described as "A pastiche…but lovingly made and extremely watchable," by Screen International.
 The Artist  (screenshot from trailer)
"The Artist" (screenshot from trailer)
Its storyline perhaps isn't entirely original: George Valentin (Dujardin) a star of silent movies in the late 1920s at a time when talkies are the future meets young actress Peppy Miller (played by Hazanavicius' wife, Bérénice Bejo) looking for her big break. As Valentin's star wanes, so Miller's rises.
But - and it's a big but - there's emotion, passion, music, dance, wonderful cinematography (yes it's possible in black and white) more than a few nods to classic Hollywood films that should keep any cinephile happy and, and and...oh yes a dog in the shape of Jack (played by Jack Russell Uggy who also won an award at Cannes - the Palm Dog).
"The Artist" opened in France October 12 and there are rumblings that it won't just be entered into that also-ran Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars next year - but will be in the main competition for the proper gongs.
So here's a word of advice - go see it.
Enjoy - and hey....even if you don't speak a word of French, it'll likely be the first film from this country that you'll sit through and be able to understand in its entirety.

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