It’s been a long wait for this much heralded movie, the notices from Cannes were enthusiastic to say the least and early user reviews on IMDB have anointed it with must see status.
So, I went along today with an open mind and a hope that it justified its early 8.5 rating on our esteemed website. I have to say that it doesn’t but there is much to love in this delightful movie novelty.
First off, this is a novelty. Once you’ve enjoyed its fare you are left wondering “what exactly was the point of making that” because it has no real “agenda”. I saw no political, religious or cultural allegory. What I saw was a lovingly crafted, beautifully photographic, gorgeously scored, excellently acted, arthouse homage.
It’s kind of a big idea but without an idea, instead it’s a film built around executional excellence and in that respect is often near to perfection with some lovely retro cinematography and illusions.
There’s a particularly nice touch when Peppy Miller’s movie opens in a cinema called the Reine (an in joke and nod to the production company that made it, La Petite Reine I suspect).
I didn’t know the story before I saw it and I won’t spoil it for you here because the story is fairly slight and not that big a deal, it’s merely the skeleton for a series of set pieces and fun.
It’s held together principally by the delightful Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), an up and coming “talkies ” star who worships the ground that fallen idol George Valentin (surely a nod to Valentino) played brilliantly by Jean Dujardin walks on. However many scenes are stolen by the delightful Jack Russell terrier who is Valentin’s only constant soulmate throughout the movie.
There are also two good cameos from American actors John Goodman, as the studio magnate, and James Cromwell, who you’ve seen literally hundreds of times without perhaps realising who he is, as Valentin’s loyal manservant.
It’s shot in a, 1.37: 1 ratio that these days, is virtually unseen, but was the format of choice in the 20’s. This, for me added further authenticity, as do the beautiful credits, captions and monochrome photography.
Sound is used cleverly throughout and the final scene had me grinning from ear to ear.
I really liked this oddball movie. No it’s not one of the greatest ever made and I doubt will do much at The Oscars outside of the technical categories but it’s a great hour and a half and an unusual and worthwhile feelgood movie experience.