The Artist


Silent movie throwback from '20s has heart Reviews

Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin are well known in France for their James Bond spoofs, the OSS 117 films. Now they hop across the pond to ’20s California for a loving – and silent – recreation of Hollywood on the verge of sound. The Artist is shot in exactly the same speechless, monochrome style as the movies in which our tragic hero, actor George Valentin (Dujardin), employs a canny arched eyebrow or breaks out into a rip-roaring tap-dancing routine.

It’s 1927, Valentin is a star, but, oh no, is that the sound of… sound, on the horizon? Valentin is an insufferable ham. He laps up the adoration at a premiere, ignoring his co-stars and hogging the stage. His domestic life is shaky, and his wife isn’t impressed when he’s snapped outside with an unknown woman and they both appear on the cover of Variety. The woman is young, beautiful Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who turns up as an extra on George’s next picture.

As they fall for each other, the sound age begins and Kinograph Studios sacks Valentin and contracts Miller as its star. Will Valentin pick himself up, or is he destined to become a relic of the silent era?

The real pleasure of The Artist is that Hazanavicius employs the tricks of silent cinema with wisdom, care and all the emotional and musical rhythm of the best of the films he emulates. It’s a movie about cinema that has a heart: it moves between funny and sad and turns the dawn of the sound age into a personal tragedy. Its nostalgia is instructive: a scene of Miller and Valentin tap-dancing either side of a screen reminds us how visually inventive early sound films could be, and a scene of Valentin talking to a policeman that doesn’t have title cards reminds us that good silent films also demanded imagination from the viewer. It’s a gentle call to arms aimed at modern cinema.

By Dave Calhoun
Time Out Dubai,

The Artist

  • Duration: 100
  • Released: Thu, 02 Feb
  • Classification: PG13
  • Language: English
  • Director: Michel Hazanavicius
  • Stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant

User reviews:

Posted by: Lloyd Bayer on 23 Feb ' 12 at 02:25

Call me a new age critic, but I must have seen only a dozen black and white movies, half of which was re-mastered during the Technicolor era. Having said that, this movie has shot up to the top of my list – Perfect and flawless, yet deep and heart wrenching. What a fantastic and moving experience! This is not just a throwback to the early days of cinema; this movie embodies the heart and soul of cinema as we know it. For a B&W movie, ironically, it is very vivid in its message that no matter who or what we have become, we should never forget our roots.

Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, this is the motion picture event of 2011 and for a variety of reasons. Hazanavicius’ story is simple yet profound with several underlying messages. Set during the late ‘20s era of black and white films, it tells of the diminishing favor of silent movies as the film industry gives into the increasingly popular ‘talkies’. As George Valentin, Jean Dujardin plays a famous but ageing silent movie star when he literally bumps into Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Although they form an instant bond, Peppy is overly charismatic and grabs the attention of studio executives with ease. Simultaneously, and with the advent of sound in films, Peppy is all the rage, while George maintains that talkies are just a fad. The inevitable happens when producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) heralds in the new era of cinema, where Peppy becomes a major Hollywood star, sending George into a tragic downward spiral.

If a picture can speak a thousand words, ladies and gents, this movie is that picture. For a silent black and white film, there is so much conveyed, all through astounding facial expressions made possible by brilliant performances. French actors Dujardin and Bejo are simply flawless without uttering a single word. More than just reincarnating screen legends like Charlie Chaplin, Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly or Gloria Swanson, together, Dujardin and Bejo has resurrected a period in history that faded in oblivion almost a century ago. Also worth mentioning are great supporting roles from James Cromwell as George’s loyal chauffer, Goodman as the studio boss and Penelope Ann Miller as George’s uncompromising wife, with special mention to Uggie the dog – playing a vital and heart wrenching role.

At the end of the movie, standing up and clapping is the least anyone can do in appreciating Hazazavicius’ brilliantly crafted work. Without having to mention the staggering number of times this film has been acknowledged at various film festivals and award institutions, I can say that the performances, the story and the music are THE defining factors of this movie. Speaking of which, the original score by Ludovic Bource clearly sets the tone and hugely amplifies the already overwhelming emotions, throughout.

With the Academy Awards just round the corner, I personally feel that "The Artist", "Hugo", and "The Help" are each worthy of being nominated for the “best Picture”. The common thread between the first two is the obvious homage to the early days of cinema and an uncanny ‘French connection’ that binds them together. Even so, Hazazavicius may have turned the tables on Scorsese with this simple yet beautiful movie within a movie. In narrowing that down to just one choice, my heart goes out to "The Artist". Sure, the likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney and even Spielberg and Scorsese are often considered Hollywood’s favorite sons, but having said that, Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin have more than reiterated the quintessential soul of cinema – its integrity, its origins, its essence and why it remains societies most powerful form of art.

Watch it only because this is a masterpiece.


Posted by: mourad rouchdy on 16 Feb ' 12 at 08:46

At last a film i loved!! this one is so not-Hollywood - thank God.
As someone who dislikes Hollywood productions and Hollywood stars and all the hype surrounding both, this movie was a breath of fresh air. Sad, warm, funny, inspiring,.....amazing. I will be seeing it again.

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