Directed by Michel Hazanavicius this French romantic comedy-drama stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. The story is set in 1920s Hollywood and is filmed in the way of the silent films of the time with action and reaction accompanied by music that suits the mood and elevates the drama.
The only text in the movie is provided by French titles that are reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin films. Even though the titles are in French some American actors are highly recognizable in the film including John Goodman, James Cromwell and Missy Pyle. It is obvious that when the characters speak they do so in English yet the titles are French. It is a movie that relies on action and reaction as opposed to the spoken word. The only real sounds that are heard are the laughter and clapping of the audience at the beginning of the film and the final scenes of the movie. The rest of the film pays homage to the silent movies of that particular period in Hollywood.
The film begins with famed silent movie star George Valentin at the premiere of his film, A Russian Affair, where he bumps into a beautiful young woman Peppy Miller and poses and displays her to the cameras for a laugh. Peppy is photographed and lands up on the front page of Variety with the headline, “Who’s That Girl.” Later Peppy auditions for a dancing part in a movie and she is yet again spotted by George who insists, to the director’s protests, that Peppy have a small part as an extra in the film. Even though her part is small the chemistry of the acting veteran and the aspiring actress is immediately obvious. Later in his dressing room George Draws a beauty spot on Peppy’s cheek, this later becomes her trademark.
The film follows the two as they lead their separate lives, George’s career goes down as he rebels the popularity of the “talkies” the post silent movie era by directing and producing his own silent film when the rest of Hollywood embraces the “talkies” in which Peppy Miller has become a star. Meanwhile Peppy’s own rise in the film industry is shown by her name rising in the credits until she becomes a star in her own right.
While George sinks deeper and deeper into depression with regards to his failed career and, by this time, failed marriage, Peppy blossoms as an actress and a personality. The two finally meet when George is hospitalized after an incident involving a blaze at his apartment. The romance plays out from that point.
Even though the movie is silent and if you are not French speaking you will understand the nuances of the film as it is incredibly well directed and acted. It is poignant and funny and will have you reminiscing of a simpler time when people used their eyes to interpret what was on the screen before them without such a heavy reliance on dialogue. That is one thing about this movie, if you decide to watch it, commit to it fully, do not allow yourself to be distracted and you will be wowed by its complexity of character disguised by the simplicity of black and white footage and almost no dialogue at all.
I recommend this to all who have an appreciation for the art of film.
Nela L. for ExpatWoman
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