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The Artist

A movie directed by Michel Hazanavicius

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Silence is Golden

  • Nov 26, 2011
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 (mostly) silent film, photographed in black and white, shot in the Academy ratio of 1.33:1. It utilizes action-heavy music that’s intended to dictate how the audience is supposed to feel. The actors rely almost entirely on body language and facial expressions. Wherever necessary, intertitles will appear onscreen displaying vital bits of dialogue.
But The Artist is not merely a stylistic homage. If it were, it would merely be a remake of Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie, which had a lot of humor but little in the way of substance. It actually tells us a story, a loose revision of Singin’ in the Rain with just a hint of Sunset Boulevard thrown in. It has interesting characters we can care about, and because all of them are essentially decent, we don’t feel as if we’ve been manipulated into it. In its theatricality, it does not patronize or dumb down; it wants to make a connection, and so it does by appealing to emotions that I believe most audiences possess. There’s drama, comedy, romance, and dancing – all immensely entertaining, all done with tremendous heart.

Taking place in Los Angeles between 1927 and 1932, it tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent film star known for his roles as action heroes and romantic leads. Just when it seemed his life could not be any better, a producer named Al Zimmer (John Goodman) shows him some test footage of an actress talking into a microphone. It’s a new innovation: Talkies, in which prerecorded sound is synchronized with the picture. George initially laughs off the idea. Who wants to hear actors talk? It won’t have a future. But not long after, major studios cease production on all new silent films. New young actors, who are perfectly willing to have their voices heard in a movie theater, quickly upstage their older silent counterparts. This would include the fresh-faced Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who George ran into completely by accident. In his dressing room, after saving her from being fired onset, he tenderly supplies her with a trademark look: A penciled-in beauty mark on her upper lip.
Although Peppy’s star is rising, George’s star is rapidly fading. By 1929, he has fallen out of love with his wife (Penelope Ann Miller), preferring instead the company of his dog, his constant companion and costar. He clings to the belief that he’s better seen and not heard, which is why he writes, produces, directs, and stars in his own film. I don’t need to tell you how the premiere goes. I will say that it happens immediately after the stock market crash, leaving George with virtually nothing. His wife kicks him out of the house. He begins drinking. Out of kindness, he fires his loyal chauffeur and manservant, Clifton (James Cromwell). He’s forced to pawn his beloved tuxedo and auction off his personal possessions, including a life-sized portrait of himself. Can this washed up movie star ever find his way back into the hearts of the people? Or will he completely fade into obscurity?

Watching Dujardin, with his strikingly handsome face and irresistibly dashing smile, one cannot help but see echoes of Gene Kelly, especially during the final scene. Bejo, slight but brimming with high spiritedness, doesn’t need to speak to let you know what she’s feeling; her expressive eyes do the talking for her. When a tear rolls down her cheek, you’re tempted to cry right along with her. Some would call this mugging, except it isn’t mugging – it’s the language with much movies like this communicate. If you take this away, you no longer have a silent movie. Instead, you have a film in which the actors don’t talk. You know the difference. In the best possible sense, emotion oozes from every character and every situation. This would include a climactic fire sequence, in which the most unlikely of heroes will rise.
It’s amazing how beautiful The Artist looks. Guillaume Schiffman’s Oscar-worthy cinematography transforms the sets into picturesque dreamscapes and the actors into the very embodiment of glamour. Just looking at the film floods the senses; you can smell the cigarette smoke and pancake foundation, feel the burning studio lights, taste the booze and the lip stain. It immerses you, not in another time so much as in another world, where reality is filtered through nostalgia. Speaking of Oscar nominations, I hope someone puts in a good word for composer Ludovic Bource, whose powerful score runs almost the entire length of the film. As long as I’m going this route, I might as well go all out and hope for a Best Picture nomination. I’m fairly certain this movie has the right qualifications.


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December 31, 2011
Unlike you, and almost everyone else who has seen this movie, I really was disappointed with The Artist. I have read nothing but glowing reviews, so maybe I was expecting "too" much. But for some reason I seem to be the lone voice not loving this film. I did enjoy reading your comments on it though.
December 31, 2011
Well, to each his own, I guess.
November 26, 2011
Sounds pretty good. I guess it is the time for producers to come out with movies that may be Oscar material....love that black and white cinematography!
November 26, 2011
What's not to like? Because we can see color for free simply by living in the world, we can really appreciate the artistic merits of black and white photography. There's a nostalgia to it that's hard to beat. I hope you see this as soon as you can.
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 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** 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 …
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 . 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 ...    http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2011/11/men-behind-artist.html    Thanks for reading!
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie



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


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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