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The Artist arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival preceded
by the accolades it received at Cannes, so expectations were high, but
those expectations have been more than amply fulfilled. This film is an
absolute marvel - charming, witty, surprising, moving, clever and
beautiful. Filmmaking is about decisions, thousands and thousands of
them, and everyone involved in The Artist makes every decision to
perfection. The cinematography is ravishing in luminous black and
white. The musical score, on which the film, being silent, is so
dependant, is subtle when it needs to be subtle, dramatic when the
occasion calls for it, and never overbearing or overwrought. The
screenplay (yes, silent films do have screenplays) toys with the
conventions of the silent era, paying homage to some of the greatest
films of the first two or three decades of cinema history. The acting
is flawless, extracting emotion and humour from a simple but classic
storyline. The direction displays such self-assurance, and treats the
audience with such respect, that it is almost like having a dialogue
with the director.
The Artist is one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I have ever had. It deserves a wide audience and all sorts of awards. I can hardly wait to see it again.
And oh yes, if there is ever an Oscar for best animal performance, the dog in The Artist should receive a lifetime achievement award for this role alone.
«We didn't need dialogs, we had faces» said the narcissistic Norma
Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in Billy Wilder' "Sunset Boulevard", referring
to the Silent Era, when she used to be big
before the 'pictures got
The reason of this introduction is that after watching Michel Hazanavicius' critically acclaimed: "The Artist", I strongly felt this was the perfect illustration to Norma Desmond's iconic eulogy. From beginning to end, my eyes never ceased to be amazed by the communicative smile of Jean Dujardin as George Valentin, the aging silent movie star and the sparkling eyes of Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller, the young and flamboyant starlet. Their faces occupy the screen with such an electrifying magnetism that they don't just steal the scenes, they steal the dialogs literally.
I was awestruck by Dujardin's performance. To those who didn't grew up with French TV programs, he's one of the most popular and talented comedians of his generation. Dujardin created the character of Brice de Nice, a blonde surfer whose specialty was to 'diss people', but it was so funny it never sounded mean-spirited. He was a member of a cult comic-troop (who made sketches à la SNL) but even back then, he had a little something that made him special: a voice, a smile, a charisma in both TV and movies, in both dramatic and comedic register. There was no doubt in France that the guy who was famous for his impressions of Robert De Niro and the camel (and even De Niro doing the camel) was promised to a brilliant career.
Look closely at Jean Dujardin's face, it's like drawn with 'classic' features: the finely traced mustache who builds a Fairbanks-like charisma like the strength from Samson's hair, the dazzling smile making him look like the lost son of Gene Kelly, and a certain macho toughness reminding of a young Sean Connery. Dujardin's face is a gift from cinematic Gods, and "The Artist" finally lets it glide, earning him the Cannes Festival Award for Best Actor. I sincerely believe he deserves an Oscar nomination, because he just doesn't play an actor from the Silent Era, he embodies the Era with the same level of demented craziness as Norma Desmond, in a brighter and more light-hearted side.
Valentin's self-absorption echoes Desmond's cynical ego while his gaudy 'Don Lockwood' mask (Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain") hides the more poignant face of his insecurity. He's the star of the screen because only the screen allows him to express his unique talent. While Lockwood had to adapt to the 'talking' revolution, George Valentin makes a conservative U Turn starting an inexorable descent into madness, from an outcast, to a has-been until being finally alienated by his own talkie-phobia. The direction is so clever that it challenges many times our perceptions, creating unexpected feelings of discomfort when real sounds are heard. But I was surprised to see how much it worked on a dramatic level.
And this is the strength of the film, although I expect it to discomfort some viewers: it isn't a tribute in the literary meaning of the word. It has its moments where it tricks us into the use of sounds or dialogs, but never fails to distract us from the core of the story: the romance. Very quickly, we forget about spotting the hints, the references to silent classics: chase scenes, over-the-top comical gesticulations, slapstick jokes etc. This mindset would disappoint those who expected a film with the same material as Mel Brook's "Silent Movie", which was clearly a tribute. "The Artist" IS a silent movie, featuring a beautiful romance between George and Peppy, who got her break with an idea from George, something that would make her different from the other actresses: a beauty spot above the upper lip. A clever credit-billing montage depicts her consequent ascension to stardom until she finally dethrones George and makes a has-been out of him.
If I mentioned the performance of Dujardin, Berenice Bejo also deserves some accolades because she succeeded in looking so "old" from our POV yet so fresh and modern in the film, with the appealing feel-good and optimistic attitude she constantly brings on screen. With her doll-face and youngish smile, she's like a cute little girl enjoying what she does. In a way, Peppy Miller embodies the film's most inspirational element: a positive message about passion and enjoyment. And this indirectly highlights George's source of troubles: being deprived from what he enjoyed the most and suffering from his progressive fading into oblivion. Along with this conflict, the evolution of George and Peppy's romance never feels forced, quite an accomplishment when we consider how slightly over-the-top silent movie stars used to act.
Both Dujardin and Bejo are indeed powerful in an Oscar-worthy level and at that moment, I can't continue without mentioning the third character of the film, George's dog. The relationship between George and the dog provides a sort of Chaplinesque feel to the movie, a mix of tenderness and poignancy, so natural and convincing I wonder if the Academy will think of a honorary Oscar. Anyway, I applaud Hazanivicius for not having reduced "The Artist" to a flashy spectacle with no substance, with the word 'homage' as the director's convenient alibi, and make a touching romance about two people who met each other at a pivotal time in the history of film-making, each representing a side of cinema, the old-school silent generation: Chaplin, Keaton, Pickford and the exuberant talkers: Grant, Hepburn, Davis And I'm glad he found the true note to reconcile between these two universes at the end didn't I tell you Dujardin was the lost son of Gene Kelly?
"The Artist" plays like a missing link between "Singin' in the Rain" and "Sunset Boulevard" and it's indeed one of the best films of 2011, with the absence of words as an endearing 'beauty spot'.
I managed to catch a screening of this at Cannes, and if you're
thinking about skipping this film because it's silent and black and
white, you're going to be missing out on a very special experience.
Everything about this film is exceptional. The acting is top-notch, the story is intriguing, and despite being black and white, the film is visually appealing. The filmmakers really make great use of the medium, and even though there are no voices or color, my interest was never lost.
Jean Dujardin gives a great performance. You like him instantly and, without giving too much away, you want him to succeed. This movie is really chock full of great actors and actresses. You'll see some familiar faces, but they all blend in well with the world of the film.
I really don't know a whole lot about the director Michel Hazanavicius, but after seeing this film I'm definitely interested in seeing what he does next.
As I waited for two hours in a long queue to watch this movie at the
Mumbai Film Festival, I wondered why I was doing so much for a silent
movie, of all things. Post screening, I'm ready to brave hail, rain or
the super hot Indian summer sun and stand in a serpentine queue, just
to watch this movie all over again.
'The Artist' is sure to go down in history as a must-watch. For those who want to study films, for those who pursue cinema relentlessly, and also for those who just watch movies because they just like to. If you're wondering why a silent film, the movie not only answers it, but makes you fall in love with the medium. it's clearly a product of a thinking director, where every thing in the scene has a story to tell. Whether it's the ironical film posters, street signs, or just a little dog barking quietly in the corner.
I don't need to comment on the talents. The Best Actor award at Cannes 2011 has done that already. I will however mention the four-legged supporting actor in the movie. Best performance I've ever seen so far!
Enjoy this movie. Add it to your collection. This is one movie worth upgrading to from DVD to Blue Ray to ...
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.
I go to a lot of screenings and it is rare that once the credits roll I
feel satisfied. One or more of the elements of most films just don't
work together to create a feeling that you have been thoroughly
I am happy to say that this film DELIVERS! The acting is superb, the chemistry between all of the actors is sizzling, the comedy is absolutely hilarious, the storyline grips you and never lets go, the music is superb, and you feel emotionally connected with the characters and story.
If you check my previous reviews, you will see that I am most often moved to write a review when a film was really bad, but this film caught me completely off guard and I just had to express my overwhelming satisfaction with this filmmaking experience.
I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to try and finance a period film with two stars who were not well known outside of their own country. I am just overjoyed that it all came together. This is how film should make you feel when you leave the theater - entertained! To the entire production team - BRAVO!!
Jean Dujardin deserved his Palme D'or for his captivating and wonderful performance. Where to start...this film is so clever, so beautifully crafted, so mesmerising. The lost art of the silent film is once again brought to life and that era is impressively recreated, whether it be the acting style, the sets, the locations (shot in Hollywood), the shimmering black and white photography. It is obvious to see that the people behind L'artiste respected that era of film making and wanted to recreate the magic with some modern touches ( I won't spoil them) and totally succeeded. I saw this in Cannes at an 8.30 am press screening and was totally entranced. I cannot wait to see it again!
What a treat. I left the theater sort of floating. Delighted. A European film looking back at Hollywood better than Hollywood has been able to do for years. "A Star Is Born" and "Singing In The Rain" mixed in a glorious black and white cocktail. Silent, yes silent! But with a fabulous score and so much panache. Jean Dujardin is the revelation of the year. What a performance! Running the gamut of emotions, leaving us breathless, and if this wasn't enough, a rousing tap dance routine in the style of Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell, partnering with the wonderful Berenice Bejo. I know that it's not just me. The audience applauded and cheered as the end credits rolled.
This is a treat. Charismatic leads with chemistry and talent, in a love
story that plays as a pitch perfect homage to vintage Hollywood
features, whilst never tipping over into parody, and that's no mean
feat. The period detail is outstanding: film stocks, tints, (heck even
the frame weave), captions and montage are all on the money.
There's an evocative score, an imaginative use of silence, wonderful locations and costume. All rounded off by a top notch cast which includes a brilliant dog. Dujardin is every inch the charming 20's star and Bejo is sassy, surefooted and gorgeous. Go see this people. They do make 'em like they used to!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have read that in 1895 the art of movie making began, allbeit in black and white and silent. It would be another 25-30 years until the second half of the 1920's before the innovations of Technicolour and sound would change how movies were made! Many of the actors in Hollywood were new immigrants, and dialogue coaches had not been invented yet, so when silents became talkies, many previously successful film careers were over. The European accents didn't translate so well. The Artist asks the question - how does one make that transition from silent to talkie? And then proceeds to answer using the silent/black and white techniques of those first pictures...absolutely brilliantly !! This afternoon I drove 2 1/2 hours (each way) to see The Artist at the Montreal World Film Festival. Being a fan of the silent film genre, I was watching for nods to those first stars of the silver screen. Some were obvious and some were more subtle.I want to talk about the picture so much, but don't want to give anything away. LOVED THE FILM - I may have to make it to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September to see The Artist again !!It's worth the trip !!!
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