This is a good movie, but it typically one that is overrated because it shows some kind of class, intellect and refinement to proclaim itself as genius. The production starts with 3 strikes against it. First, at times, it is a movie within a movie. Second, it is in black and white, and third, it is mostly all silent. With all the rave, I was willing to attempt an open mind viewing (zombie films are sometimes in black and white too).
These techniques were done to to give us the flavor of the films of the era. Even though those restored masters are available, who among the 5 star rave reviewers watch them? You could list them on one hand, or maybe one finger. In the silent era, the jokes were visual. The sound track created the mood, more so than it does today, and actors had to make dramatic movements to create emotions. They used their face...a term called "mugging" in the film. This was brilliantly brought out in the film, although we already knew that.
The film uses symbolism, such as when our star George Valentin's (Jean Dujardin)career is sinking, it shows him in a film sinking in quicksand. Good yes. Genius? Hardly. The script reminded me of "A Star is Born" (pick one) where a star launches the career of a new star only to see his fade. George is "The Artist" who believes talkies are not art. Besides the studio no longer wants George. They want fresh faces such as rising star Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo).
I liked the idea of doing the silent movie film to show us the transition from silent to talkies, I just didn't like the predictable script. Plot is important.
No f-bombs, sex, or nudity. You should be able to read lips after this film.
on 12 June 2012
This clever take on the silent era is a valentine (note the titular character's name) to Old Hollywood and especially to lovers of classic movies. Unknown French director Michel Hazanavicius, who also wrote the screenplay, wanted to take on the challange of making a silent film, complete with black & white photography & title cards, in the 21st century. To say that he succeeded (whether you like the film or not) cannot be denied.
The movie opens in 1927 Hollywood. Silent superstar George Valentin (a combination of Douglas Fairbanks Sr & John Gilbert & played by French actor Jean Dujardin) is about to be caught up in the transition to sound. While he is dealing with this crisis, young extra Peppy Miller (a cross between the young Joan Crawford, Clara Bow, & Gloria Swanson & winningly played by Berenice Bejo who just happens to be the director's wife) makes the transition to sound and is on her way up. The parallel to A STAR IS BORN is obvious along with several other references to classic films such as CITIZEN KANE (the breakfast scene), SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (the sound test), & THE THIN MAN (the dog). For the end sequence, pick the Astaire-Rogers musical of your choice.
Along with the French performers, two American character actors are given prominent roles in the proceedings. John Goodman plays the classic Hollywood studio head complete with fat cigar while James Cromwell is George's loyal chauffeur (a reference to SUNSET BOULEVARD). Both adapt themselves well to the silent medium. While there are several references to other classic Hollywood films, THE ARTIST is more than just a simple homage. It's also the heartwarming story of two people headed in different directions with some lightweight comedy thrown in & one classic scene between Berenice Bejo & an empty coat.
Despite all the critical praise, THE ARTIST does have some issues from my perspective as an instructor on silent movies. Most of them are visual and won't be noticed by the casual filmgoer. The number one problem is with the lighting. Most silent films have a much more varied contrast between light & shadow (even the comedies of Chaplin, Keaton & Lloyd) but then silent films weren't shot in color on modern equipment and then turned into black & white. This also gives the film a rather flat look on occasion which becomes somewhat boring after awhile. I would have liked to see the lighting and photography change as the time frame moved from the silent to the sound era.
But this is scholarly nitpicking. I was delighted at how well THE ARTIST captures the spirit of the era although that era is much more the early 1930s than the late 1920s. I am even more delighted that it's reaching a mainstream audience who are now discovering the world of the silent cinema for the first time. In interviews director Hazanavicius said that that is what he hoped his "little film" would do, which it has. Silent films are not for everyone and never will be but they are a valid art form as different from sound films as ballet is from opera. For opening the door to a wider appreciation of the films of the distant past, THE ARTIST deserves its accolades.
As I watched the Oscars unfolding through the small hours back in February on Sky, I was both flabbergasted and then rather irritated at the regularity of "the Academy Award goes to....The Artist", mainly because I knew of the real talent that was being consequently going away empty-handed.
Afterwards, finally seeing The Artist with friends in a multiplex, we were all a bit underwhelmed by the whole thing. The Oscar's hype had elevated it way and above that was mortally possible and whilst good, it couldn't weave its golden magic on us.
Out of my friends, I'm the only one who watches Silent movies in any shape or form. Therefore, that novelty was not going to overwhelm me. We all agreed on three positive things, though. 1 - The undeniable charm, charisma and dash of lead actor Jean Dujardin. 2 - The story toward the end and 3- The Dog. The dog, each and every time, every scene he's in were amazing and some really had to have been painstakingly choreographed.
As I said, the story picked up about a third way in and after George Valentin's (Dujardin) fall from fame and his nightmare flashed his situation to us, I could see where this movie was going and it finally 'clicked'. That the story was going to be similar to the essence of 'Singin' in the Rain', charting the dilemma that film-makers and actors of the silent era faced, which, of course, hailed the end for many huge stars, such as Charlie Chaplin.
The thrust - and a clever one - is that here, with The Artist, we have a French production, with an actor with a heavy and perhaps difficult to follow accent, who by being "silent", could make a surprise Hollywood hit. In every sense, it looks and feels old Hollywood, because you can't hear it. And that's what happened to many silent stars, who couldn't sing or speak eloquently. With the advent of the microphone, they were immediately assigned to the scrapheap. Once we ascertain that Valentin needs to find a new way of making a living and understand how the chorus girl he helped out is now a star, the film, for me, opened up and moved on nicely.
Yes, the production values are impeccable and its relative novelty raise it above the ordinary. As for the Academy and their generosity, well, the previous year they lauded the British 'The King's Speech', which was different and well made enough for them to take it to their hearts. And, of course and maybe above all, Hollywood just loves Hollywood!
on 7 September 2014
I sat down to watch and thought, "No way". Black and white and no-one was talking! I mean I like B&W films but what sort of pretentious affectation was this, to make a black and white film in 2012 (or whenever it was)? But I decided to give it ten minutes and straight away it grabbed my interest. I loved the dog - haven't seen method acting like that since 'Eddie' began his star turn on Frasier. Then I spent a lot of time trying to work out if Jean Dujardin was like a cross between Errol Flynn and Gene Kelly or Errol Flynn and someone else. So on the whole a very enjoyable film. Then I lent it to my mother. Not seen it since.
on 7 November 2012
The way in which the artist makes you smile that deserves recognition. Very few films are as simple in their pleasure as this. A plaudit which mainly belongs to the direction of Hazanavicius and the performance from Jean Dujardin, who puts in a hugely charismatic performance as George Valentin. Not Oscar Worthy, but really engaging nonetheless. The artist expresses love of a bygone era in a exuberant optimistic film, even if it is a little gimmicky. That said, You will laugh, you will cry and you will be thoroughly entertained when its done with you. What this film should be praised for is that it will get people interested in silent movies. For that, Bravo.
The shtick of making a silent film is ingenious but did not captivate me at first; though the obvious homages to the old film showed how much the director and team loved old Hollywood. It is hard not to like Jean Dujardin; if his smile does not win you over he just adds a few more teeth and widens it further. The story itself is one we know from real actors, and the conclusion manages to be both upbeat and believable. In the end it won me over.
I was a bit unsure of whether or not I would like "The Artist", what with it being a black and white ,silent film, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and can see why it was so successful at the recent Oscars. This warm,romantic film tells the tale of a silent movie actor who fails to adapt to the emergence of "talkie" films and whose career goes into freefall as his marriage collapses. His story is interwined with that of a young actress whom he helped early on in her career and with whom she was somewhat starstruck. As her career rises ,his falls , but she maintains an interest in and affection for him throughout the movie. "The Artist" features likeable characters and it is beautifully filmed as well as being original and well acted.
on 12 August 2013
SPOILER ALERT I was expecting to have my socks blown off by this multi-award winning film. Verdict? Entertained but a bit disappointed. The film is very clever and certainly unique but worth all the awards? Hmm may be not.
I found the middle section a bit over long and I didn't really understand the pivotal feature of the plot that silent movie stars couldn't adapt to the Brave New World of talkies. How come? Did he have a voice like Donald Duck? Sadly we shall never know.
So an entertaining family-friendly movie but nothing too special. Five stars for the dog though ...
on 17 May 2013
Got this film out of curiosity and because of the good reviews - but also because I didn't think a silent film was feasible in this day and age. I was proved wrong - the story, and the way it's told, are absorbing and revealing. And so different from today's preoccupation with sombre drama and violence. And in the end, heartwarming but not in the least sentimental. The dog was good, too.
on 28 March 2013
Lively and inventive 90% of the time - a few duller or unconvincing moments. Moving and vibrant alternately with a great dog and fantastic music including the Vertigo theme (for no particular reason I can see). The one real problem is the plot which is thin and predictable. Dujardin is brilliantly toothsome hero in the John Gilbert fashion. Very enjoyable.