The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2012)

What's it about? Vain, but likeable silent movie star Georges Valentin (Jean Dujardin) finds his career on the slide when the invention of 'talkies' leaves him outdated. This contrasts with the rising star of Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), whose movie career was inadvertently kick-started by Valentin. How will their paths cross again?

Is it any good? Yes, it is, although it didn't leave me totally dumbstruck. (That's a funny joke because it's a silent film, see? Well, it's a joke, at least.) Yes, this does have the distinction of being an almost entirely silent movie, filmed in the style of silent movies from the early days of Hollywood. However, it's probably not so much a homage to silent movie film-making, as to the art of economical story-telling. Notably, Hazanavicius cites John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder as his inspirations, not silent movie directors, and there is a pleasing unfussiness to the way he tells, or make that shows, his tale. Plot-wise, it's uncomplicated stuff, borrowing ingredients from well-known classic crowd-pleasers such as A Star is Born, Singin' in the Rain and Sunset Blvd and mixing them into a light confection. Then it adds a few nice flourishes of its own to add a little class, such as a couple of amusing jokes with the intertitles ("I won't talk..."), a really striking dream sequence in which we hear all sounds except Valentin's voice, and one or two good old-fashioned dance sequences, all of which means it's easily digested. Dujardin, who won the 2012 Best Actor Oscar is good, but it's Bejo really who lights up the screen, all big eyes and long legs. Well, not all big eyes and long legs - that would be just monstrous looking and not very credible, but you know what I mean. All in all, it's a playful and charming romantic comedy and if it encourages people to check out a few old classic silent movies, then that can only be a good thing.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Who'd have thunk it? A small-budget, French, silent, black and white movie took the awards season by storm, winning major prizes at pretty much every big event and quite a few minor ones too. It topped it all off with Best Picture at the 2012 Oscars, the first silent film to win that gong since Wings at the very first Academy Awards. Hazanavicius was very happy, although that wasn't so much the award recognition as the fact that Bejo is his wife. The recognition, meant it did all right at the box-office, although inevitably it still struggled to make its voice heard against the usual blockbuster fodder. (Is that joke any better? No? I'll leave, then.)

Anything else I should know? This reminded me of the time I grew a pencil moustache like Georges Valentin, only mine was ginger, which was all kinds of amazeballs (am I using that word right, kids?). When the recession came, I had to get rid of it, though, because so many people had mistaken me for a banker whilst I had it, often shouting 'Banker!' at me from car windows as they drove past. Although others liked it and informed me I was a 'class soul'

What does the Fonz think? "                        "

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