Michel Hazanavicius takes up an audacious challenge with a comedy about the flip side of technological innovations. The Artist is a silent film in black and white that takes place in the era of the heyday of the grand Hollywood studios.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent film star for whom everything is coming up roses until the arrival of the talkies throws him a curve ball and threatens his career. Peppy Miller (Bérénice Béjo), a young extra, becomes a sensation while George Valentin is tossed onto the heap of forgotten has-beens. Their paths cross as they move in opposing directions, and their love story is strained by their divergent destinies.
In the early 1990s, Michel Hazanavicius made Le grand détournement (American Class or The Great Détournement), composed of excerpts from the great classics of American cinema, parodied with a number of voice-off commentaries. Ten years later, he was still borrowing from the codes of cinema, with a comic spy story: OSS 117, le Caire Nid d’espions (OSS Cairo, Nest of Spies), acclaimed by the critics. The Artist was filmed in Hollywood; the director, a real cinephile, aspired to join the ranks of films like Chaplin’s Modern Times or Singing in the rain by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, which also deals with the difficult transition between silent films and talkies. That did not prevent him from making a film that is rooted in its own times. For his third collaboration with Jean Dujardin, the director gave him a role that allows him to express a wide range of emotions: “Silent film is a very emotional film genre, sensuous, because the fact of not being able to use dialogue forces you to tell things in a manner that is very essential and that relies purely on the sensations that you create.”
The film will be screened at 8:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Grand Théâtre Lumière.