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The Artist―movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
November 21, 2011 8:48 PM
9 Comments
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If Michel Hazanavicius’ 'The Artist' were merely an homage to silent films, it would be easy to dismiss as an amusing stunt. But his hand is so sure, his actors so engaging (and engaged), that the movie plays as well as any other picture made this year—if not better. Leading man Jean Dujardin, who was named Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, has charisma to spare, and his perky leading lady, Bérénice Bejo, is a perfect match. 'The Artist' is an utterly charming film that earns its audience’s support the old-fashioned way.

Hazanavicius and his star have worked together before, on the James Bond parody OSS 117 and its sequel, OSS 117: Lost in Rio. If you glance at the trailers for those popular French films online you’ll see that Dujardin’s stock-in-trade is a cocky attitude and a winning smile. In 'The Artist', he is called upon to delve beneath the surface of that personality, and does so in a way that seems as effortless as his mile-wide grin. Bejo brings warmth and shading to her performance as a girl who works her way up the ladder in Hollywood as Dujardin’s star begins to fade with the coming of talkies. (She patterned her performance after flapper-era Joan Crawford, while he studied Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.)

The attention paid to finding authentic Los Angeles locations and the casting of supporting roles and bit players who seem to fit the period have all paid off handsomely. Costars John Goodman and James Cromwell hit just the right notes, and never overplay their parts. The highest compliment I can pay Hazanavicius is that there were times when I forgot I was watching a brand-new movie.

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9 Comments

  • Peter-John Johnson | June 22, 2012 7:14 AMReply

    A cinematic delight!!!! For many reviewers amatuer and professional have noted the Screenplays deliberate debts to Singin' In The Rain and Wellman's A Star Is Born ... I saw the 1927 The Jazz Singer ...which like The Artist and Modern Times is in fact a part-talkie ...though in each film the percentage of spoken dialogue varies considerably.Two intertitles regarding two gossiping chorus girls in Jazz Singer and The Artist regarding the Principals are resonant. Technically as much as in spirit The Artist has been made to resemble a part silent drama such as The Jazz Singer

  • Norm | February 11, 2012 12:32 AMReply

    A Brilliant Film, Simply a wonderful entertaining film only limited by the period it portrays.
    George Valentin(Jean Dujardin) is perfectly cast..As a late 1920's silent screen Star, George sees the handwriting on the wall as talkies invade his life. Dujardin is mesmerizing, In him you see Frederic March,John Barrymore,Gene Kelly, and Fred Astaire..It is complex and exhilerating, to say the least. And as a "silent" film for the most part it does what those films do, bring you into them, and this one embraces you, something a film rarely can do...Extraordinary ! The textures, sound score transcend film making, every scene a "tapestry" of beauty and humanity, and of course, the dog,Uggie steals every scene he appears...
    Pepy Miller(Berenice Bejo) is his younger female counterpart...She has the same ambitions and drive, to want to be in pictures...A very fine performance....as with John Goodman,James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller...
    The combination of all the talent available to Director Michel Hazanavicus is never wasted, and every seem is perfectly blended and multiplied , several times over....The only limitation is the period it is set in, but a small inconvenience if any...A True Delight, and yes...(tear)...
    See this for Valentines Day or with someone Special.....(tear)...

  • michael affatato | January 30, 2012 7:17 AMReply

    I'm an American living in France, and have been used to seeing Dujardin for years in comic roles. He blew me away in THE ARTIST, as did Bejo. It's true, the story was quite predictable and did not take many liberties nor chances, but as far as an historic and respectful look at early Hollywood, it was impeccable. I also thought it was quite cutting-edge for the script to allow the woman to instigate and pursue the relationship - something that would never have flown in the 1930s! I predict there will be more opportunities on larger scales for both Bejo & Dujardin quite soon in mainstream cinema.

  • Nick | February 10, 2012 9:10 AM

    I also thought it was quite cutting-edge for the script to allow the woman to instigate and pursue the relationship - something that would never have flown in the 1930s! What are you talking about? You need to watch more movies from that period of time. Even in the 20's women where chasing men. Look up Jean Harlow, Betty Davis, Joan Crawford...... and have you ever seen Gone With The Wind for God's sakes! It was made in 1939!

  • Patrick M. Gouin | January 6, 2012 8:08 PMReply

    I went expecting an elegant film and that’s exactly what I saw. Visually the film is impeccable. A silent black and white film on Hollywood of the 20’s and 30’s was a gutsy move in 2011, but it pays off quite nicely. The storyline is quite simple and not too original, but well played throughout. This film could be sum up as: The triumph of the smile. A beautiful feel good movie!

  • Michael De Lazzer | December 4, 2011 11:39 PMReply

    Enjoyed your review, and the film. The use of silence in a large theater was an incredible effect. It made me aware of every time I reached for popcorn or took a sip of my drink!

    My only knock was that I didn't develop empathy for George Valentin, which I believe the director intended.

    I suspect this movie will be the front-runner for Best Picture, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I think "Hugo" did a better job of transporting me to a world where I wanted to play a role. But the Academy will eat up the modern-day silent format, and its indie roots. Finally we're getting some very fine movies!

    You are dead on about Goodman-- he's genius at emoting in this format.

    Cheers!

  • Bob Marshall | November 25, 2011 9:42 PMReply

    Your review is right on. I saw the promos & had to see it immediately. It is one of the most enjoyable and unsual films in decades. Deserves every accolade & award it has received, especially Jean Dujardin & the dog...who steals every scene he is in. It makes you wonder why they ever added sound/dialog to films. It does Norma Desmond proud.

  • Daveylo | November 23, 2011 7:53 PMReply

    I enjoyed your review. I saw this at TIFF and left the theater floating on air. Can't wait to see it again.

  • Jeff Heise | November 23, 2011 1:26 AMReply

    Being a silent movie maven for over 40 years, I cannot wait for this film, and in black-and-white, to boot!

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