A portrait of The Artist

Well, my faith in cinema is gradually being restored. About three weeks ago we saw Hugo, one of the few 3D movies worth watching, and one of the even fewer that would still be a splendid film in 2D. Then last week we saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; not quite in the same league but still jolly good fun. And tonight it was The Artist, which is quite fabulous.

For those who’ve missed the publicity and the reports of the plentiful standing ovations at Cannes, The Artist is a story set around the time when silent movies are being replaced by talkies. That’s hardly novel: so was Singing in the Rain. But what makes this different is that it is itself a silent movie. It looks at the transition from the ‘before’ side rather than from the ‘after’, as it were. And when was the last time you went to the release of a new silent movie?

So the sheer novelty value is a large part of what gets the bums on the seats. But very few of those bums’ owners will be disappointed once they get there, I think. I was delighted even before the film began: as the adverts drew to a close, the curtains on either side of the screen moved inwards, because this is shot in traditional 4:3 ratio, not widescreen.

The genius of The Actor is partly down to the bravery of those who had the nerve to try such a thing, and partly down to the skill of the execution. But what struck me as we walked home is that it’s unique. Nobody will be able to do this again. So I think it has found a place in the cinematic history books from which it is unlikely ever to be displaced.

And it’s also a great night out.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser