The Artist

“The Artist” is 2011′s critical darling film… the movie which was heralded from the moment it was released as being the frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s a (semi) silent film, shot in black and white, which tells the story of a star of the silent era silver screen. When Oscar noms were released yesterday, it received a whopping 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), and Best Supporting Actress (Bérénice Bejo).

The question I am here to answer now is…  is it worth all the fuss?

.

Ab-so-friggin-LUTELY.

Yeah, that was really, really good.

First of all, they really work the “silent” aspect of the film in well. This isn’t a movie where they just decided to “make a silent movie” as a throwback or a whim or a gimmick. “The Artist” has a story to tell and themes to express, and the silent film aspect of it is inseparable from those purposes.

A silent movie star, George Valentin, played (masterfully) by French actor Jean Dujardin, runs into a bright young ingenue literally by accident. The girl, Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, quickly steals his heart. As fate would have it though, their paths are heading in opposite directions. Valentin, long a star of the silent era, is about to be ushered out. The “Talkies” have arrived and with the new technology the studios want fresh meat. Enter Miller. As her star ascends, his wanes, and it makes the two would be lovers star-crossed.

So we watch as one falls from favor and the other reaches the top, and along the way, the film really establishes the emotional stakes. Without being able to rely on dialogue, the movie relies instead on constantly putting its characters into emotive situations, and then letting you connect with how they feel as opposed to what they say. It’s cleverly done, very well executed, and by the end you’ll certainly be invested in both of them.

The story itself… I’ll just say… it’s not the most intricate plotting in the world. But this isn’t a movie about plot, it’s about people.

Dujardin and Bejo will charm and mug and dance their way into your good graces. They’re unstoppable forces of movie enjoyment. You’ll feel the joy when they’re gleeful, you’ll feel the sorrow when they’re sad. Dujardin is a treat to watch as the smug, debonair superstar, and then he elicits real pathos from the audience as a man who’s lost it all. They’re joined in action by one of the coolest trained dogs I’ve ever seen on-screen as well.

There’s dancing and swashbuckling and romance, yes. But the film takes a very unexpectedly serious turn towards the end that gives the film a considerable bit more weight than if it had wound up a happy fluff piece. It winds up being a movie that’s not afraid to explore all angles of fame, including the ego crushing absence of it once its gone. It’s a great movie, completely entertaining and enjoyable, with an ending that really takes everything to a whole different level.

Thankfully, I wont have to reissue the MAJOR Award for Best Picture, “The Descendants” is still my favorite film of 2011. (Phew!) I found “The Descendants” every bit as entertaining, with more to say. But this easily would have made my top ten, Hell, my top five, had I seen it in time. I don’t know if it WILL win the Oscar for Best Picture, but if it does, this won’t be one of those years where I begrudge the winner. Not in the least. Dujardin and Bejo would definitely deserve their statuettes should they win, as well, although I think there were better certainly directors this year than Hazanavicius…

This is a phenomenal movie, highly recommended, I have no hesitation in awarding it the coveted

A++ 

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37 thoughts on “The Artist

  1. I’m still a little irked that the love theme from “Vertigo” by Bernard Herrmann was used for a very emotional scene. Was the film’s composer not able to come up with the right music? He won the Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar but he didn’t do all the muisc.

  2. Fogs
    excellent review. Hit on a lot of the same points as I did. My review is here at http://moviescramble.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/the-artist-2011/ . I have recently started posting reviews on moviescramble and can relate to your comments about a site being a bit of a ghost town. The site stats can vary wildly. I’m talking in terms of up to 30 views!! but I have to start somewhere.

    I don’t have a problem with the vertigo music being used in the movie. Mr Hitchcock was not beyond re-using techniques and even re-doing films in his time.

    • Thanks John, I appreciate the kind words.

      In terms of blogging, hang in there. No one starts off any differently. And take it from me, it’s a very very rewarding experience watching your site grow.

      My best advice is to find blogs you like and become part of their communities. In time, the “hanging out” will spill over to your blog, too!

  3. Major disappointment! This film had the biggest gap between expectations going in and feelings afterward. Biggest “ticket refund line” award. The plot line is probably the most rehashed of all time! As for the actors “acting”, well “cute” comes to mind. So cute, some wanted to alter the Oscars so the dog could get one! No non English-speaking film as ever won best picture, tricky move by the French to have a “silent” movie. I guess being different counts big this year with all the remakes and sequels but this is hardly new or different. Better to have remastered and re-released any Chaplin or Keaton flik, like Coppola did with “Napoleon”. Wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone and have already warned some friends going to it, not to.

    • Oh man!!

      Boooooo….

      Boooooo….

      Just to be clear. You DO realize you’re taking an extreme minority position here, right? Aside from the copious amounts of praise the Academy just showered upon it with 10 noms, this movie is batting 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

      Just saying, Ray… just saying.

      • I really hope more people do enjoy it(like yourself). I wanted to very much, but didn’t. I am a French film fanatic(checkout “Point Blank” on Netflix) so no problem there. Just too trite and contrived. I’m checking here for others who’ve seen it to write in.

  4. I haven’t seen “The Artist” yet, so I can’t comment on it. While Rotten Tomatoes can be a decent indicator of a movie being “good” or “bad”, it is not the ultimate authority on such things. “The Artist” may have 97%, but “Citizen Kane” (AKA: the most overrated movie of all time) has a 100% score and is a pile of garbage. The bottom line is you should always watch and judge for yourself. Just because a bunch of film critics (film-fags who get paid to write about felating “artistic” directors) said it was good is meaningless.

    • Citizen Kane isn’t regarded as being the “greatest film of all time” because it’s immensely entertaining or at all enjoyable to watch. It was a revolutionary film that brought upon a new age of cinema. It was highly controversial for it’s time, and was one of the very first examples of art winning out against authority. Your distaste for the film isn’t unfounded, as I don’t much enjoy watching it myself, but to not recognize it’s importance, and overall greatness is a bit silly.

      Film-fags? Really?

      • Ah… it’s Brik. He likes to take full advantage of his “License to Troll”. :D

        I still enjoy Kane, myself. I think it’s a great movie now and its so old that its amazing its so solidly constructed. “Built to Last”.

        Plus of course, all the revolutionizing stuff you mention.

  5. This was a very well-made film and had its moments where it captures the whole spirit and essence of the silent film era but it’s not that life-changing experience that everybody says it is. Still, a good flick though and I do think it does still deserve the Best Picture Oscar just because I don’t think The Descendants would be a very good winner that will last for the ages. Good review my main man Dan.

    • Oh man…. well, we can disagree on The Descendanst. It’s cool. LOL

      I think its hard to communicate how much I enjoyed this flick without people interpreting it as “life changing”. NO, obviously its no life changer, hell, its not even that deep. But it was rock solid. I enjoyed the hell out of it. :D

    • My kingdom for the ability to insert the clip of Marceau….

      But seriously, Silent Movie was one of Brooks’ better ones, and I think should at least be an example to automatic nay-sayers that a silent film can be executed well in the modern era (as much as 1976 can still be considered modern).

      Haven’t seen The Artist, but despite some hype backlash, it looks pretty good to me.

      • Gelf? Funny as always. Keep on rockin’. LOL

        CO – it’s excellent. I heard all the hype, went in pretty pre-disposed to DISliking it (still pissed they didnt open it wide in 2011) and came out loving it.

        Give it a shot.

  6. AH! You finally got to see this Dan and happy it met all your expectations and more despite all the hype :D I think folks who can respond/relate to Dujardin’s character excessive pride will like/love this film more than others due to that ending twist you touch on.

    • LOL. Yeah, now I get to join the hype brigade.

      You hyped it more than anyone… Let’s get that quote… “I’m unconditionally in love with this movie.” I remember it because that was the first time I was like, oh alright, maybe its good… :D

      Seeing as you’ve seen it though. That ending WAS something, no?

  7. Glad you enjoyed this one, Fogs. I was a little worried that The Artist wouldn’t live up to all the hype, but yeah, it’s pretty damn awesome. I hope it gets Best Picture out of this year’s field.

    • It is awesome. I was super impressed. I’m still rooting Descendants, but I dont think it has much of a chance. This movie is the kind of flick that will steamroll the Oscars I think, man.

      Glad you liked it too though. Affirmation is always nice to receive. :D

    • Missed thie one Thomas. Hope you dont mind :(

      I’ll try to have a look see this weekend. In the meantime, thank you for your compliments!

      Unfortunately no, though. Outside of a few Chaplin films here and there, Silent era stuff has not been something I’ve sought out…

  8. Great review and couldn’t agree more. Literally. Such a beautifully made film. I kinda wonder though, how on earth did they pitch the film? In an age where so much more emphasis is put on big budget blockbuster films where it’s all about the money, you’ve got this amazing little film that’s all about the heart.

  9. Good review! While I don’t think it’s the best movie of the year, I’m completely thankful that the “The Artist” happened. The visual poetry of cinema would never quite be the same after the era of silent film, and I’m glad that this movie was able to capture the joy and emotion of that remarkable age.

    • Thanks CKep. Yeah, they definitely pulled a remarkable balancing act. It captured the old spirit, but it still had modern movie feel… It’s a really, really skilled blend of homage to a different era, and modern a flick that’s simply filmed differently than most.

      Thanks for commenting, I always appreciate getting contributions from others!!

  10. Ah well if it got the famous A++ then it must be great right?! :D

    I have still yet to see this one, hopefully it is coming to a theater near me soon. Good review my man!

    • Of course! the infamous A++! Gotta maintain its credibility!

      Naw. It was great Matt. I really really enjoyed it, and I think it deserves all the praise it got.

      And I can empathize, Matt. I was so pissed that this thing wasn’t playing near me. If there’s any good thing… if it doesn’t open near you soon? They’ll have it on home video QUICK to capitalize on the award season buzz. That’d be my bet.

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