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The Artist

A movie directed by Michel Hazanavicius

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  • Dec 30, 2011
**** out of ****

"The Artist" has all the qualities and bare essentials of your everyday cinematic crowd-pleaser; minus the fact that most films these days aren't (almost) completely silent, whereas this one is (fair warning to those who value sound in cinema). A film of good humor and charm, it had its premiere at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it was met with much acclaim. I was finally given the grand opportunity of seeing the film a few evenings ago at the Angelika Film Center in New York; and imagine my surprise when the film ends up fitting the theater like a button. A pleasant place - with plenty of space - and a surplus of comfy seats; to match an entertaining and amiable motion picture.

As the film opens, we meet big-time silent film actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). His newest film, titled "A Russian Affair", is having its world premiere; he attends along with the other cast-members and the rest of his team. He enjoys the fame, the money, the passion, and the women. And oh, he has met his fair share of those; in fact, he has an incidental run-in with a lady - about George's own age - who is virtually a "nobody", just another fan. But when she drops her purse, bends down to pick it up, catches the eye of the movie star, and soon, she's on the front of Variety; no longer a "nobody". The woman's name is Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo).

Peppy is confident after this encounter, which garners her some attention. She auditions for a role as a dancer for a film; and on the set, she meets George yet again. Admiring her beauty and potential as a rising star; he insists that she be the star (or co-star) of his newest production, even though his producer does not approve of this. Soon, however, Peppy discovers that she need not accept such generous hand-outs as that of George; and we witness her rise to fame as a leading lady in the motion picture industry.

Two years pass, and we see how much has been accomplished in that time. We see Peppy, and then we see George; and the latter is soon to find out that he is, to put it vaguely, a less-than-lucky guy. His producer one day has a vision - a vision regarding the future of the movie business - and announces the movement from silent films to motion pictures with sound. George is a man of principal, taste, and standard; thus, he does not approve of this evolution in cinematic technology. It is his very disapproval that gets him kicked out of the studio that he once called home.

George vows to make his very own silent film; backed - financially - not by a studio but by his own funds (presumably). The experience does not go well; as Peppy's newest film outsells and overshadows his. George is frustrated by this; and is forever jealous of the new girl's remaining stature in the business, but the two respect each-other; as they cannot quite forget the things experienced while on the set of that damned dance flick.

Poor George. His troubles begin with nightmarish visions of the future (of cinema); with sound being his motivator. To make matters worse, his troubles don't stop there. His wife leaves him because she feels he can no longer support the two of them financially (she was clearly having some serious doubts about their relationship anyways). The wife then kicks him out; and he must settle for an apartment. It is there that he lives alone; with the exception of his trusty dog, who is always willing to entertain by playing dead. Like George, the dog has a soft spot for the good old days.

While it's in check throughout the film, the human aspect of the story kicks in somewhere near the last act. This is the very act that depicts the melancholy of George; and while it has its ups-and-downs, the tone of sadness in this part of the film is nigh overwhelming. The film begins with an easy-going, slow-moving, serene attitude; and soon develops into something much deeper, darker, and depressing. But that's not to say there isn't room for humor; where there is humanity, there shall be both laughs and tears. In that sense, "The Artist" is a movie of human impulses and feelings; and one that I greatly respect and admire as well.

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo; now those are two names that I had never heard of when I walked into the film. I had also never heard of the director - Michel Hazanavicius - who apparently directed a few successful James Bond-esque spoofs before tackling a story such as this one. However, I had heard of the following names: John Goodman (who plays George's long-time producer), James Cromwell (George's servant and friend), and Malcolm McDowell; the latter who only shows up for a few seconds, although they're a few damn good seconds, if it counts.

As for the names I didn't know when I approached "The Artist", the film acts as a pitch-perfect portrait of a few new-found talents; I can see these two leading actors - and this director - becoming big names in the near future. Dujardin and Bejo have flawless romantic chemistry, and Hazanavicius displays his affection for a long-lost era - both visually and stylistically - with a whole lot of fearless passion. His film is one of many ambitions; it is a homage to silent cinema, but that isn't where the inspiration stops. No, "The Artist" is movie magic; one of the best films of 2011. It's so absorbing that - in a few instances - I almost forgot I was watching a newly-produced black-and-white feature. This means that all trickery employed by Hazanavicius certainly paid off.

If you love movies about the movies, then you'll eat this one right up. If you - like George - hold on tight to silent cinema over those films with the virtues of color and sound; then you'll find the film absolutely arresting. Like I said much, much earlier; "The Artist" is a crowd-pleasing film, but it's one of the better crowd-pleasers of the year, and I think at that, one should make a considerable attempt to see it whenever possible.

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January 01, 2012
My friend gave this a high recommendation. I'll make time to see it asap.
December 31, 2011
I think I am the only person who did not really like this movie. I am not sure what I expected but I was somewhat disappointed. And I have not read one bad review or comment on the movie except for my own. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.
January 01, 2012
Thanks, Sam. It is interesting that you didn't like it - most people seemed to - but at least you're honest. There very well could be a good number of "admirers" who weren't.
More The Artist reviews
review by . December 31, 2011
The little dog saves the day - Not overly impressed with The Artist
A lot of people really like this movie.  A lot of critics really like this movie.  The judges at Cannes really liked this movie.   So I went to see The Artist with lots of high expectations.  Maybe I read too many reviews and critical analysis of the film.   Maybe I was expecting too much.  But I was somewhat disappointed with the movie.   For me the best thing about the movie was the very talented little dog who steals the show in my opinion.   I felt the …
review by . December 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Artist has the opportunity to alienate a lot of people before anyone even steps up to the ticket counter. The movie is done in black and white, it is mostly a silent movie, and there is little chance you will recognize either lead actor. While this may deter some people from seeing it I encourage you not to be one of them. The Artistis a beautifully crafted movie, and within a couple months may be declared the best movie of the year.      The Artist is a silent …
review by . January 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
   Michel Hazanavicius' reverence towards the artistry of the era of silent films lashes out a poetic mediation on Hollywood and also on the life of the artists that we adore. "The Artist" jumps over the gimmick form and gives it's content a great value. Filled with emotion and joy, the film succeeds to deliver not only one of the best tributes to our cinema but also one of the sweetest love stories and stories of struggle and dedication.      The …
review by . November 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         The Artist is cinematic perfection – a joyous celebration of everything that makes the movies so wonderful. Set during the end of Hollywood’s silent era, it surely must have been a labor of love for writer/director Michel Hazanavicius, because in this day and age, a filmmaker does not lightly make the decision to tell an image-driven story in the language of melodrama. He pays careful attention to the technical aspects. It’s a …
review by . June 27, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
As the story opens, it is 1929, and we meet George Valentin, a dashing matinée idol who thrills his fans with his silent movies. He meets a star-struck young lady named Peppy and helps her get into show business as a extra. Soon, she's rising to super-stardom, while George's star begins to fade.      This is a gimmick movie; a silent, black and white homage to silent and early talkies. The actors mug and ham it up throughout the film, the story is sweet and predictable, …
Quick Tip by . March 12, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Ok, so I had a little too many Irish coffees when I went to see this with my friends (they‘re a couple so they were more into the movie, I tried really hard to focus on the movie despite the alcohol LOL!), and this isn’t usually my kind of movie, but The Artist was a pretty clever film that is cute, entertaining, upbeat and can serve as a homage to past silent cinema.      It was excellently executed as with the style, direction, sly humor and acting. The leads …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
True Artistry
THE ARTIST Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman and James Cromwell   George Valentin (on a title card): I won’t talk. I won’t say a word!   Some critics would be hard pressed to find genuine artistry in the film industry today, but they needn’t look any further than THE ARTIST, French director, Michel Hazanavicius’s homage to another era. It is a fine celebration of the cinema and the art involved …
Quick Tip by . December 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Anyone interested in a little more insight into this fantastic film should check out my interview with The Artist director, Michel Hazanavicius and star, Jean Dujardin ...    Thanks for reading!
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie



Music, Movies, Film, Drama, Romance, Reviews, Hollywood, Cinema, Julian Left, 2011, The Artist, Silent Film, Michel Hazanavicius, Berenice Bejo, Jean Dujardin


Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Release Date: 23 November 2011 (USA)
Screen Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Runtime: 100 min
First to Review

"True Artistry"
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