“The Artist” was one of the most popular of the nine films nominated for the Academy Award and winner for Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Director Michel Hazanavicius during Oscar Night 2012.
Back in the early years of silent films, the actor’s eyes, exaggerated facial expressions, gestures and movements were meant to tell the story without talking. All of their emotions had to be portrayed visually. The audience could only determine the mood and follow the plot with these acting techniques and the titles on the screen. The movie theaters also had a pianist playing mood music synchronized to the action.
The silent film era brought entertainment to their adoring fans from the 20’s to the early 30’s but “The Artist” is the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) one of the stars who was discarded with the rise of the talkies.
The award winning French actor and comedian Jean Dujardin was the perfect choice for the part. He held each scene as his winning charm and personality captivated audiences. Just like clay, Jean’s handsome face was so flexible, so expressive, that we knew immediately what he was feeling. Life seemed perfect as George celebrated his success at the premiere of his latest film. George’s part was fashioned after Douglas Fairbanks.
In the middle of a press photo session, suddenly the attractive Peppy Miller ( Bérénice Bejo ) accidently bumped into George. One of the most beautiful moments in the movie, his face expressed surprise and attraction when their eyes met. Peppy looked so appealing and vivacious with a touch of innocence. The next day the newspaper headlines read, “Who’s that Girl?”
George arranged for Peppy to have an acting part in his next film and she soon became famous. Their paths were intertwined yet George’s moved in the other direction. His inability to adapt to talkies changed everything! Now an actor’s voice made the difference and George’s voice didn’t measure up to the new standards.
After pawning his tux and valuables, George was a sad sight especially to Peppy. She secretly followed him determined to find a way to bring him back into show business.
“The Artist’s” plot was similar to the classic 1952 musical comedy “Singing in the Rain” with Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Conner, Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen, but the character Lina Lamont, played by Jean Hagen, was not as likable as George.
“The Artist” was skillfully written with a sincere appreciation and dedication to the art of film making and the stars of the Silent Film era. Many silent film stars actually did face this problem of transitioning to the talkies.
“The Artist” is the first silent film to win the Oscar in 83 years since the World War I film “Wings” at the first Oscars in 1929.