Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the film, which is set in 1920s and 1930s Hollywood, is steeped in the history of cinema, both in content and form. It is a celebratory homage to an era when stars were stage-managed and mysterious rather than appearing in paparazzi photographs looking hungover.
The story centres around famed, arrogant silent movie star George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) who finds himself surplus to requirements when the film industry embraces the new talkies. Meanwhile, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who is a budding actress when George is at the height of his popularity, sees her career take off after starring in countless talkies and she soon becomes the darling of Hollywood.
Far from putting me off, the lack of dialogue in this film was one of its strengths. In fact, the lack of speech was oddly comforting. In one of the most memorable scenes, George dreams about a world with sound. It’s a disconcerting moment and I found myself longing to be enveloped by silence again or at least the musical soundtrack.
Overall, this film is utterly charming and wittily self-referential with plenty of well-executed slapstick comedy. There are also some incredibly poignant moments, for example, when a disillusioned George destroys his silent film reels in a fire or when he sees the reflection of his face in the pawn shop window above his tuxedo which now sits in there.
And last but not least, a special mention must also go to George’s loyal companion, a Jack Russell (played by Uggie). The little dog provides some of the best comic moments in the film and steals the show when his master’s flat is on fire and he raises the alarm.
You can see The Artist at Nottingham’s Broadway until 2nd February.