by Tony Medley
Run time 100
OK for children.
There's a reason
why there has only been one silent film made since the 1930s. And that
reason is that they are excruciating to sit through. They are passť and
their appeal is strictly esoteric.
This is a story
about a silent film star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who looks like
John Gilbert, circa 1927-31, whose career is undone by the talkies. When
he's still on top he gives a young dancer, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo,
the director's wife in real life),
a break and she becomes a star, effortlessly making the conversion from
silent to talky.
That's about it.
She likes him and mourns his descent from stardom and does what she can
to help him. But the film is far too long to not hear any dialogue. Even
though it's done well technically and the acting is very good, it's just
tedious to sit through. The only silent films I can sit through are
Laurel & Hardy two-reelers, which are generally less than 25 minutes.
The film has
lots of nostalgic old Los Angeles locations, including Mary Pickford's
house across the street from my house where I grew up. These are
lovingly captured by DP Guillaume Schiffman,
which is unusual, to say the least, since most of the filmmakers are
French, including director Michael Hazanavicius, whose previous efforts
were spy spoofs.
Both Dujardin and
Bejo give fine performances, as does the rest of the cast. The acting
isn't campy; it's as realistic as a silent movie can be.
If silent, black
and white films were what lots of people wanted to see, they'd
still be making them. They aren't because most people don't.