I finally got to see the multi-BAFTA, multi-OSCAR winning The Artist today. In this context, this review would only really be noticeable if I were to completely trash the film.
It's an astounding and towering achievement. I understand it won't be to everyone's taste, but on it's own terms it is, quite simply, amazing.
The conceit, for anyone who has had their head buried in sand for the past couple of months, is that in telling the story of a star of the silent movie era, the film itself is silent. After 8 decades of "Talkies", could such a film find an audience?
Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a matinee idol whose life gradually falls apart as his marriage becomes increasingly strained, his Studio moves to making talkies, the stock market crashes and his personally funded "Tears of Love" is a box office flop when it opens against "Beauty Spot" starring Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a star of the new technology whom Valentin had met as an extra on an earlier production.
It would seem that things couldn't get any worse from this low point but they can and do - will the former leading man be reconciled to the new age and will he accept the help of the world's newest star?
Michel Hazanavicius direction is superbly adapted to the silent medium, allowing the story to be told through the visuals (and occasional, but not too many, title cards) without over- or under-labouring points. The film is beautifully shot to reflect the spirit and look of films of the 20's and has a classy as well as classic feel. Dujardin gives a stunning performance, without the "mugging" Peppy claims is favoured by the silent actors... Bojo's performance is full of fun, vigour and vitality.
Perhaps the biggest star of the film, though (other than Uggie, the Jack Russell) is the score. When you take out the words and background noise, you need a strong score. Ludovic Bourse's score is precisely this and encompasses (with a few brief exceptions) the whole film, expertly supporting the ebb and flow of the story and the changing pace and tone.
So, for once, believe the hype. And if you've not seen it yet, I'd thoroughly recommend it.