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.