Everybody loves an underdog. The Artist, a black-and-white silent movie with a budget of only USD15 million and filmed in just five weeks, is as big an underdog as they come. But that didn't stop it from winning five Oscars, including Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Achievement in Directing, and Best Picture. So, does it deserve all the fuss? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
The movie begins in Hollywood, 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the top of his game as a silent movie star, so much so that the public loves him almost as much as he loves himself. But everything changes when he (quite literally) bumps into a girl in the crowd. Her name is Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) and she wants to make it in the movies too.
Unfortunately, there are some complications. It's not that she has no talent because she clearly does. It's just that silent movies are starting to lose their popularity with "talkies" on the way. George stubbornly refuses to embrace the new medium while Peppy is prepared to do what it takes to make a name for herself. Can their blossoming relationship survive the turbulent times as one star rises and another star fades away?
Popular movie movies
Movies about movies seem to be quite popular these days (Hugo, My Week with Marilyn, etc.). Sometimes they can be quite complicated. Think about it: Isn't it confusing for a director to direct an actor who's playing a director, while surrounded by actual crew members and cast members who are acting like the crew? And how do they know what's a prop and what's not when the set looks like a set? Somehow, it all comes together quite beautifully in The Artist. Everything about this film works so well together, especially the wonderful acting by the two leads, both of whom have some impressive dancing skills too.
Silence is golden
Mostly, The Artist really makes you understand why silence is golden. I had my doubts about watching a movie with no dialogue, but I now realise how powerful this is. "I discovered that silent film is almost an advantage," said director Michel Hazanavicius. "You just have to think of the feeling for it to show. No lines pollute it. It doesn't take much - a gaze, an eyelash flutter - for the emotion to be vivid." Dujardin had similar praise for the medium: "A silent film is a very special experience," he said. "It is not intellectual, it's emotional. You take it in the way you take in music. There are times when language reduces communication, when you feel you are losing something when you start talking." How true!
Ultimately, at a time when the world keeps racing ahead to embrace the future, perhaps the only way to get ahead is to embrace the past. And, in an age when people won't stop talking, perhaps the only way to break through the noise is to shut up. Words can't express how moving this film is. Perhaps that's because words aren't necessary for it to move you at all.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Running Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes Age Restriction: PG-13
Eugene graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinctions in financial accounting and classical piano. He then spent over two-and-half years working in branding and communications at two of South Africa's top market research companies. Eugene also spent over three-and-a-half years at an eLearning start-up, all while building his business as an award-winning writer.
Visit www.eugeneyiga.com, follow @eugeneyiga on Twitter, or email moc.agiyenegue@olleh to say, um, hello.