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Review: The Artist

Nov. 23, 2011by: Chris Bumbray
100%

PLOT: In 1927 Hollywood, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest star in town. The veteran of dozens of swashbuckling adventures that pair him with his plucky Jack Russell terrier, Valentin is the envy of every man, and the dream of every woman. But, the arrival of sound films, and the changing tastes of the public have a disastrous effect on Valentines life and career, and his star quickly plummets. Meanwhile, his protg, a beautiful young comedienne, Peppy Miller (Brnice Bejo) becomes an overnight sensation, while Valentin sinks into obscurity and poverty.

REVIEW: THE ARTIST marks the arrival, in a big way, of director Michel Hazanavicius, who previously directed the enjoyable, if lightweight Eurospy spoofs, the OSS 117 films, also starring Jean Dujardin. Those films were fun (they were big hits here in Montreal, where French films tend to perform well), but they didnt prepare me for THE ARTIST, which immediately brings Hazanavicius (not to mention star Dujardin) to the top-tier of international filmmakers to watch.


More than anything, THE ARTIST is a film about love- and I dont mean that in a corny way. Sure, its something of a love story (although the deepest love of the plot is not between Valentin and Miller, but rather Valantin and his canine best-friend, Uggy- a Jack Russell terrier thats like the Olivier of dog actors), but the real love is the one Hazanavicus has for old Hollywood.

In the last few years, there have been a lot of post-modern, take-offs, or homages to forgotten films forms (mostly to the seventies GRINDHOUSE genre, which has been in vogue for the last five years or so). But while those films are tongue in cheek, and constantly wink at audiences reminding us this is all a joke, THE ARTIST completely works as a film of its own, and a profound work of art.

Its no wonder the Weinsteins are marketing this as their big Oscar contender, and its easily good enough to qualify for many of the top awards. But heres the rub: its silent. Yes, ladies and gents, THE ARTIST is not only about silent films, it IS a silent film. Now, this may turn off a bunch of you, but give it a chance. Theres really something about top-tier silent that cast a spell over audiences (especially if seen in a darkened theater), and THE ARTIST is truly captivating.

The plot is deeply reminiscent of A STAR IS BORN, although Valentins story parallels many of the top silent actors, particularly John Gilbert, who has the biggest matinee idol of his time, but, thanks to his light-weight voice, and total misunderstanding of the nuances of acting in sound, crashed and burned once sound films became the norm.


Im sure my plot description makes this sound like a tragedy, and while it certainly has massive helpings of pathos, its actually very funny, and has a surprisingly light touch throughout- particularly when the dog, Uggy is involved (the audience I saw this with cooed with delight every time the dog was onscreen, and being a dog lover myself, I joined them). Dujardin is mostly known as a comic actor in France, and his performance is remarkably faithful to the Buster Keaton style of silent comedy, with heavy doses of Douglas Fairbanks-style daring-do, and John Gilbert-style pathos. While he only utters a single line of dialogue (at the VERY end), Dujardin has to be considered one of the big Oscar contenders, and if he doesnt at least get a nomination, Ill be astonished.

The rest of the cast is similarly good, with Brnice Bejo (who, in addition to being the love interest in the first OSS 117 film, is also married to Hazanavicus), making a charming, flapper-style heroine, whos very reminiscent, in boisterousness, of golden age starlets like Carole Lombard. The rest of the cast filled out by American, name actors, including John Goodman (with his expressive face tailor-made for silent) playing the exasperated studio boss, and James Cromwell playing Valentins dutiful butler. Penelope Ann Miller, of CARLITOS WAY & THE SHADOW, has a role as Valentins vain wife, and amazingly, she doesnt seem to have aged a day in the twenty years (!) since many of her big films.

As was common in Golden Age Hollywood, THE ARTIST is shot in 1:33:1, gorgeous black & white, and has a sweeping symphonic score by Ludovic Bourse, which is all but guaranteed an Oscar nomination if its own, although they cheat a bit by using Bernard Hermanns theme from VERTIGO to score the climactic scenes.


Suffice to say, I adored THE ARTIST, and it cast a ninety minute spell over me, thats something thats increasingly tough to pull off, as I grow every day into a more jaded filmgoer. From the first frame, to the last, THE ARTIST had me in the palm of its hand.

Source: JoBlo.com

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1:25PM on 11/28/2011

It was pretty good.

I literally just got back from the theater seeing this. It was pretty good.
I was expecting a more flashy movie, like a silent film for the 21st century but it was pretty straight forward. The whole thing just seemed nostalgic and unable to compete for modern audiences.
But i did like it overall. Great acting and nice directing. Don't worry about it not getting a wide release, it's the perfect film to anticipate on DVD, (in my opinion)
I literally just got back from the theater seeing this. It was pretty good.
I was expecting a more flashy movie, like a silent film for the 21st century but it was pretty straight forward. The whole thing just seemed nostalgic and unable to compete for modern audiences.
But i did like it overall. Great acting and nice directing. Don't worry about it not getting a wide release, it's the perfect film to anticipate on DVD, (in my opinion)
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10:40AM on 11/23/2011
What makes me mad is i would absolutely love to see this in a theater but its not being released wide. I have to wait to see this until it hits blu ray which makes me sad!
What makes me mad is i would absolutely love to see this in a theater but its not being released wide. I have to wait to see this until it hits blu ray which makes me sad!
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10:20AM on 11/23/2011
I have to see this!
I have to see this!
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6:05PM on 09/08/2011
awesome review, didn't really know about this one ,really wanna see this now
awesome review, didn't really know about this one ,really wanna see this now
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+1
12:47PM on 09/08/2011
Nice, Dujardin seems to be very good. Looking forward to see this and the OSS films, and not to mention his Lucky Luke film that looks great too.
Nice, Dujardin seems to be very good. Looking forward to see this and the OSS films, and not to mention his Lucky Luke film that looks great too.
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9:18PM on 09/08/2011
Dujardin is good in Lucky Luke, but the film is a filthy pile of bullshit. If you want to see another good Dujardin performance, try 99 Francs ! Can't wait for this, though :)
Dujardin is good in Lucky Luke, but the film is a filthy pile of bullshit. If you want to see another good Dujardin performance, try 99 Francs ! Can't wait for this, though :)
+2
10:35AM on 09/08/2011

Most anticipated flick

If you get a chance, definitely check out the OSS 117 films. I don't think they're light at all. There's so much subtle stuff packed into it, and it handles so many types of humor (spoof, homage, visual, slapstick, silly, puns, absurd...) that it takes watching the films a few times to get a grasp of just how brilliant they are. I cannot recommend them enough, although it's probably better to understand french to get the most of them, the UK subtitles don't do them complete justice. But yeah,
If you get a chance, definitely check out the OSS 117 films. I don't think they're light at all. There's so much subtle stuff packed into it, and it handles so many types of humor (spoof, homage, visual, slapstick, silly, puns, absurd...) that it takes watching the films a few times to get a grasp of just how brilliant they are. I cannot recommend them enough, although it's probably better to understand french to get the most of them, the UK subtitles don't do them complete justice. But yeah, The Artist looks awesome. I'm not completely sold on how possible it would be for essentially a French film (although silent) to make it to the big categories at the Oscars. We'll see !
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