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“The Artist” – Review (POSITIVE)

January 7, 2012

A feature length silent movie, in 2011? As the Current Studio Chief put it in Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie”, ‘A Silent Movie in this day & age?!’ It’s almost unheard of, don’t get me wrong, I love a good silent movie, but to do one for a modern audience, an audience who’s used to fast paced, fast-talking, fast action, and actual SOUND, it’s almost a gamble. But, when the word got out from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival that French director, Michel Hazanavicius, has crafted a silent picture in the style of a 1920’s Golden Age production, my interest peeked.

Hazanavicius’ “The Artist” was the toast of Cannes; many loved his leads (French stars Jean Dujardin & Hazanavicius’ wife Bérénice Bejo), the look dazzled audiences, and the story was heart warming, yet familiar, but I’ll discuss that later. To simply put it, “The Artist” is a magical movie that transports viewers of today back in time to an era where movies were indeed that magical. The Golden Age of Hollywood has been long since passed, but resurrecting that old flame was a challenge I think modern audiences needed to explore.

As a film lover, I love to watch all kinds of films; films from the 20s (even earlier at times) to the present. I like to branch out as best I can, perhaps more than most 23 year olds do when it comes to movies. I adore silent films, at times I wish I was around during that time to see them in the nickelodeons & movie theaters they were presented in. Seeing “The Artist” was the closest thing of giving me that feeling.

The film begins in Hollywood, 1927, and the hottest silent star to reach the big screen is George Valentin (Dujardin). Millions love him, his movies continue to thrive, and his happiness couldn’t have been any better. That is until he meets Peppy Miller (Bejo), a nobody flapper girl, who accidently bumps into George at the premiere of his latest film. A spark is made between the two polar opposites; Peppy supposedly gets her 15 minutes of fame, she kisses George on the cheek, gets her picture taken, and the end. But, word starts to spread out in the trades, people wanna know who this girl is. George himself is quite taken by her, there’s physical beauty, but there is also something else about her.

Peppy starts to make her way, she earns an extra job on George’s next film, where the two share a cute scene which goes on take after take. At the end of the day George endows a beauty spot onto Peppy’s cheek, he feels that if she is going to be a ‘star’ she needs to be different. By doing so, this begins a new chain of events; Peppy gets dancer jobs, then supporting player roles, till finally earn a major supporting player role. She’s recognized by her beauty and talent and is granted her first lead film, ironically entitled “Beauty Spot”.

In the long and short of it, the silent scene is dying down, and sound is starting to take control. George doesn’t believe that sound is the future and tries to resist it. But, after the recent success of Peppy, making her debut talkie, George realizes that it’s time with out of the old and in with the new, and he’s the old. Hazanavicius does something fascinating, the point in the film where George draws the beauty spot on Peppy’s face it’s a symbolic moment of, if you like, passing of the torch, of success that is. And subsequently her trademark is that beauty spot, I mean c’mon, they made a movie about that damn beauty spot! It’s even more tragic when that whole concept comes into light.

Watching George crash and (literally) burn really churns the viewer’s gut. I over heard a 20-something year old audience member walking out of the theater say to his date, ‘Wow, I never knew these kind of movies could be so dramatic.’ Ok, for one thing dumbass movies are always dramatic, in some degree, they just are. Second, watch a silent movie from that era, it’s nothing unheard of to do dramatic productions. And thirdly, WOW I can’t believe you’re that cinema sheltered! But…I digress.

The movies story however, entertaining, dramatic, and heartwarming as it is, it’s not very original at all. Anyone recall a little picture entitled “Singing in the Rain”? It’s the exact same storyline. You see that movie, you pretty much know how this one is gonna end, thematically that is. While “The Artist” lacks in originality, it does make up for some original creativity in the silent film genre. There’s one scene in particular where George has a bad dream, I won’t spoil anything, but going in expecting a full fledge silent film, that brief scene comes right out of left field, and I loved it. The end also does something very similar, but it does it in a well-rounded conclusion to the era itself.

I loved the movie plain & simple. It was a delight, it was a rare treat, and it’s something I don’t see happening again, not for a long long time. I can’t wait to see what else Michel Hazanavicius will throw at us, the American audiences.

GRADE: B+

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2012 2:36 am

    Only B+? That is actually quite a low rating for this film!

    Anyway, good review, I am really looking forward to this one!

    • January 7, 2012 10:59 am

      No necessarily. I still loved the movie a lot, the one and only thing that took it down to B+ was for lack of originality in story, it’s the same plot as “Singing in the Rain”. This was a hard one to give a letter grade to, but it sort of borderlines B+/A-, so look at it in that light.

      Go see it, it’s a fantastic experience.

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