120 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent...just magnificent
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...
Published on November 14, 2011 by C. Sawin
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging
Silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardain) is on top of the Hollywoodland world until a random encounter with Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) foreshadows the ascendancy of talkies, the gradual death of silent films, and Valentin's plummeting career. The film's Valentin-centric portrayal is interesting because it's represents the desperate, somewhat...
Published 20 months ago by Jason
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120 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent...just magnificent,
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.
138 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Artist: An effortless classic...,
This review is from: The Artist (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) (DVD)
I respond to hype involving movies in a variety of different ways. If I get all excited about a film months before its release, I often find myself being disappointed with the film's final product. I saw a trailer for "The Artist" months back, and didn't think much of it, because I didn't know much about it. I had seen reviews and award acclaim for Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist", and wanted to give it a shot. On account of the limited theatrical release that the film got, I found myself venturing toward the bad part of town the night before it happened to win the Golden Globe for best picture, and oh, was it worth it.
"The Artist" is everything you could possibly want it to be. The story isn't anything revolutionary or surprising, but it really doesn't have to be. In case you have somehow not heard of this film yet, it is a silent film that is set in 1927, at the height of the silent movie era. It follows George Valentin, an actor who has had a great deal of success in silent film. The film follows the years where the film industry is moving into "talkies", where he finds his success is dwindling. He falls hard for Peppy Miller, an actress who is just breaking into the business. This story lasts over the span of maybe ten years.
While up until now, Hollywood has widely forgotten about the silent film era, the style of the film feels kind of experimental to a moviegoer of my generation. The film is a beautiful love letter to this period of film which we all have forgotten about. It makes me think that actors, writers, directors...everybody had to work a lot harder in that generation. It's hard to write a universally appealing story with no dialogue.
Style is a big deal, camera angles, and lighting are critical. I'm glad this one was released after I took my first Film Studies course at college, because there's a good chance a film like this would have slipped through my fingers otherwise. I learned about the silent film era, and found that there were twice as many flops as there were hits, in those days. This film could not have worked in those days, since it is clearly about the silent film era. However, I appreciate the little hidden history lesson that this film offered.
In a film with no dialogue, actors have to have very expressive faces, they have to be able to emote, which is also something that a wide amount of today's actors and actresses have forgotten how to do. Jean Dujardin's George Valentin is wonderful. His infectious smile is a big reason why the film works. It's the same deal with Berenice Bejo. The two actors have phenomenal chemistry, and that's enough to carry this, even if it were a bad film.
Like I said, this film's storyline is nothing new. It's the classic story of the Hollywood big cheese who helps the beautiful young starlet in her rise to fame. The film works because it's a story that can be shown in any country, in any language, and it would still be relevant. It's universal in a way that I didn't expect. The film doesn't use the titles that silent films are known for too much. There are titles, but they are used sparingly, only when they need it. That was a very good thing. For a film that's so strictly about filmmaking technique, being shot in glorious black and white, with a 4x3 aspect ratio, it's quite affecting. I give most of the credit to the actors, the extraordinary musical score by Ludovic Bource, and the direction. This was clearly a labor of love, and it pays off in a big way.
66 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Artist: Brilliance Made to Look Easy,
This review is from: The Artist (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) (DVD)
It is a masterful movie-maker who can take a simple story (much less a silent one) and captivate an audience. That "The Artist" is so straight-forward is itself a tribute to the old adage that any story can capture the imagination, it just must be true to the soul. The genius here is that you are totally drawn into this world in near totality by the expressions on the actors' faces. It belies the fact that the silent film is indeed a lost art and we are fortunate to have it re-introduced to the main-stream in such a glorious fashion.
But first things first, this is *not* a stodgy, stick-in-the mud film. "The Artist" is at times laugh-out-loud, and then is equally engrossing as an emotional hay-maker. If you are expecting a dull yawn-fest, go see the latest CGI-laden summer film. But if in the the best sense you want to be captivated by a film, see "The Artist".
Without any giveaways, the story here involves an aging film star who is being left behind by the rise of the sound-age of film. Right behind him is a rising starlet who is excelling in the sound age. It is their story to tell: his from the perspective of the slide down and hers from the climb up. There is great supporting work as well, including a delightful little doggy who is essentially the side-kick to our hero. But it is lead actor Jean Dujardin who rightly "steals" the picture with his breath-taking emotional range.
Also a delight are the little scenes we as an audience identify with as true-isms: the bits of film magic that stick with you long after you leave the theater. The rising starlet using our hero's jacket in a pantomime, reflecting her awe and love of him, is the perfect example. But what tops it all in my mind are those moments where "The Artist" blends old-fashioned movie staples into itself and makes you want to cheer, though you know it's been done a thousand times before. An example being the aforementioned doggy as hero at one point. It is this homage to old films that makes you smile - the director is so skillful at it, he creates his own legitimate, unique and praise-worthy old-Hollywood world without it feeling stale in the least. In fact, it is as refreshing to watch as anything else you will see this year or any other.
"The Artist" is the best of what movies should be: good storytelling that makes it look easy.
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly enjoyable homage to an era and a style,
French director Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist is a delight to experience, a highly enjoyable and superbly crafted homage to an era and a style: the silent movies. While one can definitely appreciate it more if one has some familiarity with the silent movie era, it is not a necessity. The Artist will give anyone who's never seen a silent movie the experience of what seeing one was like and how different silent movies were stylistically to the 'talking' films which have been the norm for the last eighty years. And why people loved them as much as they did.
The Artist is set in Hollywood - the heart of the film industry - in the critical period between 1927, when silent movies were at their peak, and 1932, by which time they had become a thing of the past, completely displaced by 'talkies'. The film begins with a swashbuckling action sequence, but then the camera moves back and reveals that we're actually watching an audience watching a film, the premiere of a Hollywood studio's latest production featuring its star actor, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). After the premiere is over, when Valentin is posing for the press outside the theater, an accidental encounter brings him face-to-face with an admiring young fan, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who ends up being photographed with him. In a turn of classic Hollywood mythology, Miller is 'discovered' and given a shot at being an extra in a film, which turns out to be the next film Valentin is featured in. A second chance encounter results in Valentin taking Miller under his wing, insisting to studio boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) that she be given an actual part in the film. And thus Miller's career in film is begun.
The next part of the film draws thematically from film classics Singing in the Rain and A Star is Born. Fast-forwarding ahead to 1929, it is the beginning of the talking era, and studios are rushing to adapt to the new technology. Valentin is dismissive of the innovation, but Zimmer informs him that the studio is switching over to talkies immediately and anyone who can't adapt will be left behind. Refusing to budge, Valentin instead decides to produce his own silent epic, pouring all of his money into the production which he not only stars in but also directs. The film, Tears of Love, bombs horribly, ruining Valentin financially and eventually costing him not only his career and his house but also his marriage as well. But as Valentin's career fades, Miller's star is on the rise and soon she is a leading actress in her own right. But even as the plot descends into melodrama, it retains its comic touches and things are ultimately resolved in the most classically upbeat Hollywood way: a musical dance number.
Besides drawing on many of the themes in Singing in the Rain, The Artist is in many ways the perfect counterpoint film to it. Singing in the Rain deals with the transition from silent films to talking films, presented in a talking film with talking actors. The Artist deals with the same transition, but as a silent film centered around the point of view of a silent actor. Hazanavicius makes clever use of his format choices, bringing out Valentin's fears in a delightful sequence where everything in Valentin's room suddenly starts making noises. Already startled, Valentin then descends into panic when he realizes that his own voice is still silent, and that everything - and everyone - is being heard except him.
Hazanavicius did a lot of research in preparing for this film and put a lot of thought into the shooting. Besides being down in black and white, the Artist was also filmed in the full-screen ratio (1.33:1) that was the standard during the silent film era, which enhances the actors' faces, making them bigger on the screen, an important factor when much of the characters' intentions and feelings had to be conveyed silently rather than through dialogue. He also studied the lighting and camera techniques the original silent film directors used to enhance expression and convey mood.
The cast are, in a word, marvelous. Jean Dujardin's Valentin is the embodiment of the silent film movie idol, using heightened expression and body language - not to mention perfect comic timing - to bring his character to life. This is done quite subtly as we're often watching film within film, so that when the characters - who are silent film actors - portray characters in the films they're making, they're done just slightly more exaggerated than the characters are when they're being themselves. Bérénice Bejo does the same with her Peppy Miller, playing the rising young ingenue and the comedic characters that her character in turn portrays. Hazanavicius knows his actors, having worked with both Dujardin and Bejo in previous films (not to mention being married to Bejo in real life), and knows exactly how to bring out pitch perfect performances from the both of them. The supporting cast, from John Goodman's comically put-upon studio boss to James Cromwell's devotedly loyal chauffeur, Clifton, are also excellent. And then there's Uggie, the perky and soulful little terrier who steals every scene he's in as Valentin's on-screen and off-screen dog.
As one would expect in a film like this, Hazanavicius has worked in a number of nods to the silent film age and to films and the film industry in general, some of them fairly obvious and others rather subtle. For example, the sequence that shows Valentin and his wife becoming estranged is a comic take on the classic sequence from Citizen Kane showing Kane and his wife becoming estranged over breakfast. Later, a scene shows Valentin in his reduced-circumstances apartment, watching a reel from one of his silent swashbucklers on a projector. The scene in the film is actually from a real silent film, The Mark of Zorro, which starred Douglas Fairbanks, one of the biggest stars of the silent film era. In the places where the shots are close enough to recognize the actor, Hazanavicius inserted Dujardin in place of Fairbanks. And in another scene later in the film after Miller has become a major star, a rescued Valentin ends up being taken to her mansion after his apartment has a fire. The mansion used in the scene originally belonged to Mary Pickford, one of the biggest stars of the silent film era, and the bed Valentin wakes up in is Mary Pickford's actual bed.
Highly recommended, both as a truly creditable homage to the silent silver screen and as a thoroughly enjoyable film in its own right.
54 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary moviemaking; not just a movie, but an experience.,
This review is from: The Artist (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
In an era where we rely heavily on CGI and 3D to wow us, this movie takes us back to a time when acting was truly an art, men were gentlemen, women were proper, and moviegoing was a theatrical and magical experience. Gone are the days when we can get into our Sunday best and spend an evening at the theater for a movie and a live show. Nowadays, anyone can catch a flick at 10am 7 days a week wearing their jammies, and often being the sole soul in the theater.
Spoiler: this is a silent movie. Sorry if I've lost your attention already. But hear me out. True, this is one of your "been there, done that - married boy meets single girl, married boy falls in love with single girl, married boy can't have single girl, single girl moves on, and there is still a happy ending" story. But it's not the story that makes this movie - it's the way the story is told that makes this movie revolutionary and epic. Jean's and Bérénice's pure, raw emotion, in addition to a stellar soundtrack, tell the entire story without the need for schnazzy graphics or complex plot. Dialogue is only displayed on screen maybe less that twenty times. The rest of the story is told entirely through kinesics, which is relayed via stellar acting.
I don't usually go see a movie in the theaters twice. I will see it once, and if it's good enough to see again will wait until it comes out on Blu Ray. But this movie...I even convinced by buddy, who had zero interest in seeing the movie and hadn't even heard of it, to go see it, and he loved it.
The score is also worth picking up. Yes, it's 100% instrumental. But 50% of the meaning of the movie is through this score! Even if you've not seen the movie, it's written so well that you can feel the emotion just by sitting back and closing your eyes while listening to it.
I can only hope that we begin to see more silent movies like this.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dujardin is Extraordinary in a Silent Screen Tribute Made from the Heart,
To state that French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius appreciates the artistry and emotional appeal of classic silent cinema would be a severe understatement. He devours it like only a true cineaste would and brings a unique deftness to such a long-forgotten medium that he singlehandedly brings it back to life if only for this one instance. Mostly silent with title cards and shot entirely black-and-white, this stylish 2011 dramedy starts in 1927 Hollywood as pre-Depression audiences were still enraptured by the heart-palpitating derring-do of matinee idols like Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and John Gilbert on the silver screen. As Norma Desmond said in Sunset Boulevard, "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces then." And indeed Hazanavicius has found the appropriate doppelganger in his constant star Jean Dujardin portraying an amalgam of Fairbanks, Gilbert and Rudolph Valentino with a touch of Charlie Chaplin (notable in his comic scenes with the dog) and a little Gene Kelly-style hoofing thrown in for good measure.
Dujardin plays George Valentin, one of the silent screen's leading lights whose charming braggadocio is more than offset by his popularity. At the premiere of his latest romantic espionage caper, he has a "meet-cute" run-in with the fittingly named Peppy Miller, a pretty extra fumbling for her autograph book on the red carpet. He is immediately impressed with her beauty as well as her moxie, and in another "meet-cute" run-in, by her terpsichorean talent as well. Once their mutual attraction is established, the plot follows a standard A Star Is Born storyline by showing his career in decline while hers is on a fast rise with the advent of talkies. There is a buoyant spirit that infuses the story and sideswipes the more tragic elements one would expect from previous versions of this tale. That's how Hazanavicius manages to engage the viewer even though the film slows considerably during the middle section despite his meticulous efforts. There are also recognizable tributes to silent classics like F.W. Murnau's Sunrise and King Vidor's The Crowd and even a wink to the classic breakfast montage in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane to illustrate how Valentin and his icy wife drift apart.
Some of Valentin's most vulnerable moments are beautifully rendered like the puddle of liquor on the glass table, his window reflection against the tuxedoed torso of a mannequin, and a sure-to-be-classic nightmare scene where he hears every sound except his own voice. The movie jumps back to life with a surprisingly exhilarating ending that subtly explains the key dramatic point of the story. Dujardin immerses himself completely into the essence of his embattled, vainglorious character without a trace of irony. It's a genuinely exquisite performance that could have easily disintegrated into self-parody in less assured hands. What's more, the man can really dance. Bérénice Bejo (who also happens to be the director's wife) is lovely and vivacious as Peppy, although there are moments when she comes across as a mite too contemporary to be truly convincing as a period character. Take, for example, the fist pump she shows when she wins her first audition. At the same time, when she puts an arm through the sleeve of a jacket on a hanger and caresses herself with a hand she imagines to be his, she handles this piece of pantomime with true aplomb.
The two French stars are surrounded by familiar American faces like John Goodman as a Jack Warner-like, cigar-chomping producer; James Cromwell as Valentin's dutiful chauffeur; Penelope Ann Miller as Valentin's shingle-haired, ignored wife Doris; and Missi Pyle as a Lina Lamont-style starlet, appropriate since this film covers the same fertile ground as Singin' in the Rain. By the way, that's Uggie who plays the playful, clever Jack Russell terrier, an obvious paean to Asta from The Thin Man series. Kudos also need to be given to Guillaume Schiffman's accurately evocative cinematography (unlike other pastiches, the film looks like it was made in 1927), Laurence Bennett's production design (including an inventive use of the vintage Bradbury Building in downtown LA), and Ludovic Bource's swooning music score, which includes a snatch of Bernard Hermann's Vertigo score over a climactic scene. Even with all the praise heaped on this film from the critics, it's not for everyone's tastes. Silent cinema, by its very nature, beckons a certain patience from the audience that some will find tedious, and even at a running time of just 100 minutes, the movie still feels a bit long. At the same time, for those who can appreciate it as an art form, Hazanavicius has really delivered quite a treat.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply touching,
I won't rehash the praise that other reviewers have given this movie; it's all true and then some. I loved the movie and found it poignant to the point of discomfort at times. It's a great movie and deserves all of the compliments heaped upon it.
The only piece I wish to add is more praise for Uggi, the terrier that plays "Jack", the dog. His performance is an integral part of this film, and no, I'm not exaggerating for effect.
Not to mention that he plays the type of stalwart, loyal companion that we all need in our life as we make our way through this world...
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly done! Who needs talking?,
Well, YOU might think movies do. But at least look at the trailer to try and get some glimpse of how this movie gets across a whole range of emotions with music and printed dialog screens...just like the olden days! The acting is terrific all around, with especial chemistry between the two leads. And a dog that should get a special Oscar like they invented for Shirley Temple. No spoilers here but I'll say there are some unexpected surprises. Give this a shot and you'll be rewarded by seeing something very rare and special.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will want to see it again.,
This is a movie for people who love movies. Though the characters speak just a few words, they are so dynamic and interesting. There is beauty and humanity in this film that is so rare. You will need to view it twice to really get the most out of this classic. I can't wait to own the DVD.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LOVE NOTE TO THE PAST,
This review is from: The Artist (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
There are many who would have been stunned when they heard that a silent movie won for best picture in 2012 at the Oscars. Okay I admit I was one of those people. But after having had the chance to see the film it made me think that perhaps Hollywood granted the award for two reasons: one, because it is a great film and two, because it is a love note to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The film is about the career of silent screen idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a swashbuckling/dancing/sly grinned matinee idol if there ever was one. When the film starts George is at the top of his game and the biggest box office draw around. Along with his pet pouch he's the talk of the town and a hit with everyone.
One day while signing autographs he literally bumps into a young woman named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). At first surprised he passes it off with a laugh and the two go on their way. Except that now the press is all abuzz wondering who this mystery woman is, something that Mrs. Valentin (Penelope Ann Miller) isn't pleased with.
As the film progresses the paths of George and Peppy cross once more when they meet on the set of his next film where she's an extra. They playfully dance back and forth much to the displeasure of the head of the studio (John Goodman). When he attempts to toss her off the lot, George steps in and defends her. This is much to her good fortune as the roles she receives increase and her popularity grows as well.
The same can't be said of George. When Goodman shows him the latest thing to hit Hollywood, sound, George laughs it off and gloats that he's never needed sound to reach and audience. When the studio switches to sound only, George is tossed aside as old. He promises to show them how great silent films are by starring in, directing, writing and producing his next film. Opening the same day as the new Peppy Miller film, it draws a few people against the lines waiting to see her film.
Down and out and nearly penniless after the stock market crash, George's wife leaves him. Only his trusted chauffer Clifton (James Cromwell) stays by his side until George finally fires him due to no money with which to pay him. George sells off everything he has and finds little to keep him going.
At the same time the fortunes of Peppy Miller are skyrocketing. Little known to George so are her emotions for him. It will only be a matter of time before these star crossed lovers finally meet once more.
It seems like such a simple story, perhaps a bit of A STAR IS BORN, tossed in as well. But this is no remake and yes, the story is quite simple. But that doesn't make it the least bit boring. Instead it's a tremendous piece of storytelling that makes the viewer use their eyes to get the story. The music enhances the action on the screen just as it was in the silent era. The composition of what we are viewing is something we could take for granted or perhaps we have the chance to see how visually stimulating it can be, even in black and white.
The film ends with a dance number straight out of the old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers playbook. Unfortunately there will be far too many viewers who won't even know who Astaire and Rogers were which is kind of sad because there are so many great movies that just aren't the thing these days. Younger viewers ignore films that are black and white. They have no desire to watch a film that is "silent" (even though the score to this movie is fantastic). It's much easier to watch a movie with tons of explosions or sparkling vampires than it is to invest oneself in a love story like this one.
That's a big loss for this generation. They don't know about the high flying adventures of Captain Blood or the deeply romantic loss felt by Rick in a town named Casablanca. They'll never know the charm of Nick and Nora Charles as they solve crimes or the horror displayed by an actor named Karloff. This movie might change that though. Perhaps after watching and enjoying this film the younger generation might be interested enough to seek out those classics. One can only hope. And if not, at least they'll be entertained by this film. It deserved the attention it received.
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The Artist (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] by Michel Hazanavicius (Blu-ray - 2012)