If ever a film were custom-designed to charm the pants off a Toronto audience, The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius’ mostly-silent ode to the death of silent film ““ is it.
But that’s in no way a bad thing.
The Artist treads on familiar territory. It’s a requiem for a by-gone era, which we’ve seen before. Yet, the film takes it one step further than most other so-called “˜love-letter’ films by going (almost) completely silent.
The film expresses an epic Hollywood life in the full silent aesthetic, shot in glorious black-and-white and leaning heavily on acting techniques that cast member James Cromwell described as “˜usually an after-thought.’ In other words, the film is silent not just in its lack of sound, but at a complete artistic level, from the lens to the smallest prop.
But what carries the film ““ beyond the unbelievable performance from Jean Dujardin ““ is the its heart.
It relies on caricature just enough and nearly loses most of its effectiveness out of devotion to the grand silent-era denouement; but the delivery from each and every member of the cast makes what could have been a gimmick into a solid, spectacular film.
Of course, Dujardin’s unbelievable presence helps, but all the way down the line – from Berenice Bejo to Cromwell, to the always-engaging and sadly under-used John Goodman ““ everyone’s giving it everything and doing it with an earnestness that amplifies the film’s already insane level of heart.
A lot of the credit, while I’m doling it out, has to also be given to the score by Ludovic Bourse. Anyone’s that’s ever seen a silent film with a bad score knows the value of having a good one, and The Artist‘s music is one of its greatest weapons.
This is a film that will be subject to a lot of hype and hyperbole, but it’s also a film that has earned most of what’s getting heaped upon it.
Toronto audiences can be very generous to filmmakers, but Hazanavicius has found the vein to feed into exactly what most cinematic audiences love. I’ve never seen an audience response like the one The Artist received and that’s due in large part to the joy that pulses through every frame of the film and the bits with the dog.
It also doesn’t hurt that he completely nailed the film’s ending.
Sadly, the film’s paltry two scheduled screenings at this year`s festival have already passed by.
However, if you’re late to the party, there`s little reason to cry about it.
I’m not a betting man, but there’s a very high likelihood that a freebie screening will be headed Toronto’s way on the final night of the festival, after some hardware is handed out.
This review was originally posted as a part of TFS’ coverage of TIFF 2011. Click here to view the original post.