The Artist

Bottom Line: Talk about (or, rather, mouth about) an automatic Oscar for Best Picture!

“With pleasure.” —Jean Dujardin as George Valentin

Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Berenice Bejo, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman

Beautifully produced, witty, silent gem chronicles the years of 1927 to 1932, the transitional cinematic era from silent films to “talkies.” Its focus is on George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who was famous for a while as a silent film star, but by the rise of the talking pictures, his career has hit rock bottom. Early on, George meets younger dancer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo, screenwriter-director Hazanavicius’s own wife), who begins a massive rise to stardom in the newly popular sound cinema, after hitting the newspaper headlines with about a dozen photographs.

I would like to call THE ARTIST the best film of 2011, but in all honesty, it’s so convincing as a film from 80 years before that I have to wonder if it actually was released last year. Every so often we have a modern black-and-white film, such as SCHINDLER’S LIST or PLEASANTVILLE, and it’s always for an artistic purpose. With the most infinitesimal exaggeration, we never have a modern silent film come our way, and if we did, none of them would be as grand as THE ARTIST. It’s the most exquisitely delivered, beautifully captured film I have ever seen, and the best theatrical experience I have ever had.

Entering the theater and buying a ticket for this film, I was nervous about the way in which it would qualify as a comedy. I didn’t really expect such a unique film to take another further step and add humor, and I expected it had been billed a comedy due to subtleties. I can’t find a place to begin expressing how wrong I was. In one scene, Valentin is grieving over his failure to reel in an audience for his silent film while Miss Miller’s new sound film, released the same day, is gaining a gigantic audience. He finds a note written to him; in the postscript of the note, disappointing as it already is, he is informed that he should go see Miss Miller’s film. The dog, Uggie, is the most notable comic icon of the film. Though we don’t hear him bark, we see him bark and enter the screen for the best-fit moments.

If you were considering going to see THE ARTIST, consider no longer, get out, and see it. This is a film that is in no way common and in every way unique; an automatic classic. That said, if this doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2011 (and Best Original Score for Ludovic Bource’s ingeniously-crafted, well-done musical compositions), there will be some serious hell to pay.

14 thoughts on “The Artist

  1. […] I think it’s a bit narcissistic to refer to one of my reviews as “beautiful,” personally.  If someone called one of my reviews beautiful, I’d be honored, but it just doesn’t work when I’m talking about my own work.  On the other hand, I do remember absolutely loving The Artist and spending every precious moment reviewing it.  Best theatrical experience ever, for me, and those who missed it, it’s about too late to enjoy the experience I had, because it comes to DVD in less than a week. […]

    • In what way do you mean lightweight? I understand, if it were to win Best Picture (which it will 🙂 ), it would be an outlying bit among all the others, which won more for, say, social relevance, plot, and poignancy rather than creativity. On another note, I don’t understand why Bejo was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. She was a big enough performance and plot piece to qualify for a lead role. I loved Missi Pyle (the only name in the credits I actually recognized) in the beginning–she surely wasn’t a note for the Academy, but not only did she give the film its tame PG-13 rating, she was, for me, the biggest human comic relief. 😀 I’ll really anticipate what you have to say!!!

      • As you know, my pick for Best Picture is Midnight in Paris but I won’t be mad when a movie like The Artist takes the trophy instead: it’s an inventive movie, the team behind it had the balls to make and distribute a silent, b&w film in 2011, the music is amazing, the acting, the dog, the little flashes of sound. What I meant is that The Artist will win based on what it means for the film industry right now. If silent films were still “normal” right now, it would definitely not win. It doesn’t have enough substance, that’s all I’m saying. Still, one of the best of the year.

        I still felt like Bérénice Bejo’s was a supporting performance but some guilds and award-dispensing groups agree with you and they have nominated her for Lead. I love Missi Pyle too but her funny presence in here was just too brief to warrant a nomination.

    • Mine, too. My favorite scene (because I love the satire): When the shots are switching between George putting the gun in his mouth and Peppy driving recklessly. We see the intertitle, “BANG!”, and we think it’s George shooting himself, but they’ve tricked us. Haha. What was best about this for you?

        • I did like the throwback to the silent era, and I found George’s dream sequence very familiar, yet inventive. I’m with you on the dance numbers: the final scene excited me so much that I stayed for the entire credit sequence (they rolled by fast, anyway), and I left the theater smiling brighter than I ever had before.

          Also, I’m glad you used the word “throwback” rather than something simple like “homage” or “tribute.” It definitely wasn’t either of those. If I had to compile a list of the most nostalgic films I’ve ever seen, this would rank somewhere in the top three.

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