A rare night out at the cinema. We'd wanted to catch The Iron Lady, but it was sold out so settled instead for The Artist, more from convenience than choice, a stroke of luck as it was absolutely astonishing and a bit of a companion piece for Travelling Light which we saw last week at the National.
Set in 1927 the film, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, charts the careers of George Valentin, a silent screen romantic who fails to adapt to new world of the talkies and Peppy Miller, a one time fan, whose plucky, girl about town performances turn her into a box office phenomenon. As Peppy rises, George falls, until on the brink of oblivion, she rescues him for a true Hollywood ending. There's a sense that the talkies were as much about a reinforced sense of American nationalism as a natural progress. George, like many of those swashbuckling pioneers, has European, not native, roots.
The novelty of The Artist is that, with the exception of the final line, Hazanavicius chooses to revert back shooting the whole epic story as a black and white silent movie, reminding us with beautifully lit sequences, and superb camera work the craft of that early age. In this respect, and the almost constant referencing of great cinematic moments, the film is a simple love letter to movie making, like the wonderful Cinema Paradiso, a passionate affirmation of the glamour, nostalgia and romance of the form. A reminder that all of us can, and, on rainy days, probably should, imagine our lives in epic terms.
I hope it'll win the Oscar - if not for Best Movie then surely Best Actor for Jean Dujardain's incredibly witty and stylistic portrayal of Valentin. It's a ravishing piece of work. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.