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Outside a movie premiere, enthusiastic fan Peppy Miller literally bumps into the swashbuckling hero of the silent film, George Valentin. The star reacts graciously and Peppy plants a kiss on his cheek as they are surrounded by photographers. The headlines demand: "Who's That Girl?" and Peppy is inspired to audition for a dancing bit-part at the studio. However as Peppy slowly rises through the industry, the introduction of talking-pictures turns Valentin's world upside-down. Written by
Malcolm McDowell portrays one of the butlers in this film, in a fully silent role. McDowell portrayed a character named Alfie Alperin, who was a famous silent film star who became a studio executive (a role loosely based on Charles Chaplin), in Sunset (1988). In real life, Chaplin was best friends with Douglas Fairbanks, the man who George Valentin was based on. Further, Chaplin lived next door to Fairbanks when Fairbanks lived at Pickfair, his home with Mary Pickford, where Pickford moved after she married Douglas Fairbanks, after living in the house which was used as Peppy's home. See more »
The number of George's house is painted on the curb in front. Los Angeles did not begin this practice until decades later. See more »
The Artist had quite the reputation going for it before it debuted at the Cinema Arts Festival in Houston, Texas. Early reviews were already very positive and many Houston critics were talking about how much they were anticipating getting the chance to see it. I purposely went in blind and only found out just moments before I entered the theater that it was a silent film and was not only shot in but would be presented in the now practically ancient 1.33:1 aspect ratio. A black and white silent feature film made in modern times; what's not to like about that? Truth be told, nothing can really prepare you for how extraordinary The Artist really is.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the king of silent movies in Hollywood in 1927. Audiences just adore everything George is a part of. Along comes Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) who you just know is going to be a huge star some day. George and Peppy work together on one film as George not only takes her under his wing, but an undeniable spark develops between the two. Over the course of the next few years, silent movies fade into obscurity as talking pictures or "talkies" explode onto the scene. George finds himself struggling for not only work, but a purpose to live as Peppy becomes the next big thing overnight.
The Artist is funny and charming right out the gate. Jean Dujardin really plays to the crowd and appears to love nothing more than catering to the people who come to see his films. George's dog Jack might be the biggest form of comic relief in the film. The way he plays dead and covers his head with his paws are always both presented in a way that is fresh and laugh out loud funny each and every time they're utilized. Once Bérénice Bejo enters the picture, the film begins to evolve into a type of romance. It's odd though because to my recollection George and Peppy never kiss. Peppy seems to steal the spotlight in the same way George does as soon as you see her dance for the first time. The laughs are there, the charms are there, The Artist has a firm grip on your heart and your attention and never really lets go.
The film eventually begins to get a bit darker though as silent movies wither away and talking pictures take their spot. George's downward spiral is really fantastic to watch. It's mostly due to not only Dujardin's superb performance, but also the way many of these scenes are filmed. There's a scene where George is sitting down at a mirror table drinking whiskey. You see nothing but George, his reflection, and the alcohol. He pours the booze on the tabletop as the look of disgust becomes more chiseled on his brow. That scene is so beyond amazing. The brilliant music used in the film also just captures the time period perfectly. There's also this dream that George has right before he's let go from his contract where he can't speak, but everything around him has sound. That sequence is really spectacular, as well.
The Artist can get a little dark at times, but for the most part is extremely lighthearted and feel-good at its core. Never have I wanted a movie to end on a happy note so badly in my life. Through the highs and the lows of George Valentin and the depressing outcome of his career along with the heartwarming sensation you get from nearly everything in between, the entire experience just feels so real; so genuine. The Artist is just pure perfection, a masterpiece, and an instant classic.
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