Director Michel Hazanavicius attempts the virtually impossible task of inducing movie goers to leave behind the technological wonders of modern cinema to embrace a bygone era with his current feature The Artist (2011).
Filmed in glorious black and white, instantly evocative of the era and devoid of dialogue, the movie traces the rise and fall of silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) during the first great age of film. Whilst Valentin ponders the oncoming change of wind brought about by the invention of the talkies, the actor also romantically crosses paths with upcoming dancing sensation Peppy Miller (BÃ©rÃ©nice Bejo).
The trailer for Hazanavicius’ homage to the silent era is lavishly filmed and Dujardin’s heartthrob of the silver screen bears an uncanny resemblance in mannerisms to William Powell with his matchstick moustache, swaying moves and white haired terrier sidekick.
Elsewhere veteran John Goodman seems almost typecast as the wonderfully named movie mogul and cigar chomping Al Zimmer. The portrayal of a larger than life producer is not new to Goodman who previously took the role of shock director Lawrence Woolsey (almost certainly based on William Castle) in Joe Dante’s family adventure Matinee (1993).
The fall of the star may bring to mind Billy Wilder’s seminal Sunset Boulevard (1950) whilst the subplot concerning the introduction of sound into the movies has also been covered in Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
Bejo looks stunning as the upcoming beauty almost certainly doomed to be cast into the limelight and perhaps there’s even a hint of both Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen amidst events.
But with an engaging score by composer Ludovic Bource and what seems an instant chemistry between the two leads, The Artist has already won critical acclaim from both critics and audiences alike.
Hopefully it will prove to be the surprise hit of the season.
The Artist is on general release from 30th December 2011