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Silent Gallic pride

Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - July 1, 2012 - 12:00am

Film review: The Artist

MANILA, Philippines - Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is France’s most awarded film in cinematic history. After it won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (for Jean Dujardin) at this year’s Oscars, the Philippine cinema audience was finally treated to watch this charmer of a film when it was selected to open this year’s French Film Festival at the Shang Cineplex.

George Valentin (Dujardin) is a matinee idol of the silent film era, roguish and manly, with a trusted canine sidekick, Uggie (a scene stealer if ever there was one). Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) starts off as a film extra, has one chance encounter with Valentin after one of his film premieres; and parlays that “meeting” to become ingénue and co-star of several silent films.

With the advent of talkies, Valentin is forced to face the possible end of his film career, while Miller’s career skyrockets as she becomes America’s movie darling. Always cognizant of how that chance encounter paved the way for her being noticed, Miller keeps an eye out for Valentin as he spirals downward, cursed by his foolish pride and stubbornness. There’s obviously love in the air, but the how’s and why’s of this coming about are what makes for the plot of the film.

The magic that’s generated comes from the impeccable acting of our two main protagonists. With no spoken word allowed (except at the very end of the film), it’s the facial expressions and subtle actions that allow us to “connect” to the film. The likes of John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller and James Cromwell provide more than able support, and kudos to the set designers for painstakingly recreating 1930’s Hollywood.

Moments such as when Miller steals into Valentin’s dressing room and “emotes” with his tails that hangs on a stand, and when Valentin reacts to objects he touches or drops making noise as talkies are on their inevitable way, showcase just how much thought Hazanavicius has placed in making his film such a memorable one.

To be frank, I loved the film but had felt that conceptually, it was ironic that this year’s Best Picture would be granted to a film that was done with the technology of the film industry 80 years ago.

Nostalgia has its place in the sun, but I would have preferred a film that looked forward, or could be considered a signpost of cinema’s future. Having said that, finally viewing The Artist allowed me to understand what the buzz was all about, and how charm can be the greatest of considerations when it’s awards time.

BERENICE BEJO BEST DIRECTOR AND BEST ACTOR BEST PICTURE FILM FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL GEORGE VALENTIN JEAN DUJARDIN JOHN GOODMAN MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS VALENTIN
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