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Silence is Golden.
The Artist (DVD)
Member Name: shabbating
The Artist (DVD)
Advantages: Acting performances, direction, score.
Disadvantages: Nothing major.
*Film only review*
Set in the late 1920's, The Artist follows silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) through the highs of his Hollywood career and the challenges presented by the introduction of talkies.
Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius (OSS 117). The film is winner of 5 Oscars (out of 10 nominations) including best picture, director and actor (Dujardin). Also winner of 7 BAFTAs (12 noms) and 3 Golden Globes (6 noms).
There was so much hype surrounding The Artist in the run up to its release that I had to see what all the fuss was about. I had to know whether the film was actually a good film or whether it was just being talked about because it's unusual. You don't get any almost silent, black and white movies nowadays. A throwback to a bygone era, it is obvious why The Artist has done so well in awards season.
The film begins with Valentin at the top of his game with his loveable dog (Uggie) by his side and wannabe actress Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) trying to get noticed in Hollywood. I found The Artist a little hard to get into at first, which was more to do with me than the movie itself. Having had never seen a silent movie before, I wasn't sure what to expect or how interested I would be in a full length silent feature. After 15 minutes or so I settled into it and it seemed totally normal not to be able to hear the actors talk.
The Artist has a relatively long run time for a silent movie of 100 minutes; most silent movies are essentially shorts. I was surprised that I didn't find it to drag at all, although the plot is fairly predictable, the performances are compelling which kept me hooked. The production is excellent, it may not be filled with CGI and shot in 3D but the quality of the filmmaking is top notch. Simple yet very effective. Director Hazanavicius, his wife Bejo and Dujardin have worked together before and it shows, there's an ease and confidence to the performances which is a pleasure to watch.
Jean Dujardin (OSS 117) puts in an Oscar winning turn as leading man George Valentin, the film relies on his performance and it is every bit as good as the critics say. The character goes through a whole range of emotions throughout the film and Dujardin makes you feel them all. With no script to deliver, there's intensity to the acting at times which you don't always get when words get in the way. Some may see it as over acting but expressions are everything and so it is necessary to overdo it a little. The Artist starts out fairly light hearted but builds the drama as the story progresses. Dujardin moves his performance nicely and you really do root for him to succeed. It will be interesting to see if Dujardin moves away from French cinema, and if so how successful he will be. I think most actors are best when acting in their native language, for obvious reasons, but maybe he will surprise me. It's certainly exciting times for him.
Bérénice Bejo (A Knight's Tale) was Oscar nominated for her role as the up and coming Peppy Miller. As with Dujardin, Bejo handles the material excellently. She makes Miller likeable throughout when the audience could turn against her at numerous points in the film. Bejo kind of disappears at certain points in the movie when it becomes all about Valentin which I thought was a shame. Bejo and Dujardin have great chemistry; the most enjoyable scenes were when they were together on screen. I would have liked to see her given a little more material particularly halfway through; the film is about a rise and fall, not just the fall.
Support comes from some familiar faces in John Goodman (Roseanne) and James Cromwell (The Queen). Two very different performances, Goodman's over the top studio head Al Zimmer and Cromwell's quiet, loyal driver Clifton, both very good in their own way. Uggie the dog has gained the affections of most cinemagoers and critics alike, it's hard to resist a cute little dog that can do tricks.
The success of The Artist also rests a lot on the music of the film. Ludovic Bource's score is excellent; however the quality of the music has been overshadowed somewhat by the controversy surrounding the inclusion of a piece from Vertigo. I love Vertigo and personally I don't see it as being a crime like many others do, music gets reused many times over.
The fact that The Artist is somewhat of a passion project for director Hazanavicius makes it a nice break from the many vacant blockbusters churned out by film studios that have no heart or feeling. There are seemingly endless sequels and films adapted from bestselling books now that it is a surprise to be faced with a film such as this. I wouldn't be shocked if someone was coming up with The Artist 2 now to be honest. Hopefully not though, hopefully it can stay as a one off, an ode to the cinema of old.
The Artist is excellent, the most enjoyable film I have seen in a long time. Brilliant performances make the film a must see, highly recommended.
Jean Dujardin - George Valentin
Bérénice Bejo - Peppy Miller
John Goodman - Al Zimmer
James Cromwell - Clifton
Penelope Ann Miller - Doris
Missi Pyle - Constance
Runtime: 100 mins
Also posted on ciao under the username shabbating.
Summary: Brilliantly made piece.