Artist, the (2011)

February 10, 2012 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

A classic style feels new again with the Artist,  a film that plays as a tribute to the magic of silent cinema. The Artist is a film about a silent acting star named George Valentin, who deals with the changing of times, as talkies are quickly taking over. Valentin falls for an extra named Peppy Miller, as there careers take opposite roads; Peppy on the rise and Valentin on his way down the ladder. Michel Hazanavicius directs a talented cast that includes Jean Dujardin, Berinice Bejo, James Cromwell and John Goodman.

Everything about the film looks amazing and on-point to 1920s silent cinema, minus the crystal clear picture. There’s dialogue cards, catchy, upbeat tunes and the performances have a magnetic likability to them. Hazanavicius also adds some modern style to the film so that we can pry into the mind of Valentin; a standout being the dream of Valentin when he is being overwhelmed by sound itself where even the drop of a feather sounds like an explosion.

Jean Dujardin has all the features of a silent film star with his thin mustache, dazzling smile reminiscent of Gene Kelly, slick hair and an expressive face. Dujardin’s character of George Valentin, in a way, represents the spirit of silent cinema itself. It’s a challenge to act without words, but Dujardin pulls it off with remarkable grace and doesn’t shy away when Valentin descends into madness, as he portrays Valentin’s agony with intent while still making it humorous. Valentin falls for a perky woman named Peppy Miller, played by the beautiful Berenice Bejo who captures the upbeat, optimistic character with charm. Miller seems to be Valentin’s crutch in his downfall, and their relationship is magnificently portrayed, yet the only kiss is a peck on the cheek. The supporting actors, James Cromwell, John Goodman and Uggie the dog, played by Jack the dog, are all solid as well.

This is a  black and white silent film that challenges the short attention span of viewers so used to guts, tits and CGI. The film is almost like a missing link between the last silent film and the first talkie. The Artist succeeds in captivating audiences with faces alone, just like in the 1920s, proving that simple is sublime.

Potential Drawbacks:

There’s nothing truly noteworthy about the story, as it takes the rise-and-fall of a star approach without too many differences in the formula. Also, as good as the acting is, there aren’t too many memorable scenes in the film that stick with you. Some may also think it’s just a movie that worships and praises Hollywood, without any real connection to the audience.

Obviously, if you don’t enjoy silent films, this film will feel like it’s dragging for the entire run-time. If you do care for silent films, then it may be hard not to compare it to silent film classics.

Film Recommendations:

OSS 117
City Lights

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