Sunday, October 16, 2011

NYFF Spotlight: The Artist

I have the distinct pleasure this year of covering a few of the films that are being shown at the New York Film Festival. Most of these films do not yet have U.S. release dates, and therefore this can be considered a preview review.

The Artist
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
To Be Released November 23, 2011

One of the festival’s most buzzed-about films is “The Artist,” from established French director Michel Hazanavicius, a black-and-white, silent film set at the end of the 1920s. This is one instance where all is not merely left in the premise, and instead the movie delivers fully on the possibilities of its format. There is plenty of humor to be found in the filming of a story with these visual and audial components, created at a time when more advanced technologies are available. One particularly entertaining dream sequence finds famed silent actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) unable to hear his own voice while the rest of the objects around him begin to possess sound. This is the story of Valentin’s trouble transitioning to sound cinema, paired with the rise of a young starlet with a soft spot for Valentin, the lovely Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Dujardin and Bejo have astonishing chemistry, quickly taking to each other and being present in three of the film’s most wonderfully choreographed scenes, mimicking stars of the golden age to perfection. Both lead actors are French, making a major, memorable crossover to Hollywood, joined by American actors John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, and Beth Grant in the supporting cast. The plot is a delight, generally dramatic but filled with an enormous amount of heart and frequent laughs. It’s hard not to like this winning film, but more importantly, this film should be applauded for taking an innovative approach and taking full, proper advantage of the potential of such an experiment.


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