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Cannes The Artist Reviews: "A Triumph of Artistic Teleportation, A Big Blast of Pure Delight"

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 19, 2011 at 6:04AM

Weinstein Co. scooped up French production and last-minute competition entry The Artist before it screened at the fest, and since then it has become a popular title. The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday and I were turned away from one festival screening before I talked us both, as well as LA Weekly's Karina Longworth, into another in the market. It could turn into a worldwide hit, because it's a charmingly accessible Star is Born Hollywood romance set at the same nostalgic turning point as Singing in the Rain: the advent of sound. The film is shot in sparkling black-and-white and it's silent--except for a surging score and a few key percussive moments.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Weinstein Co. scooped up French production and last-minute competition entry The Artist before it screened at the fest, and since then it has become a popular title. The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday and I were turned away from one festival screening before I talked us both, as well as LA Weekly's Karina Longworth, into another in the market. It could turn into a worldwide hit, because it's a charmingly accessible Star is Born Hollywood romance set at the same nostalgic turning point as Singing in the Rain: the advent of sound. The film is shot in sparkling black-and-white and it's silent--except for a surging score and a few key percussive moments.

Thompson on Hollywood

It would not surprise me if Jean Dujardin scored a best actor prize in Cannes. He is winning--and heartbreaking--as George Valentin, a silent star fallen on the skids, alongside Berenice Bejo as the young starlet on her way up, John Goodman as a benevolent studio chief and John Cromwell as Valentin's loyal chauffeur. The silent dialogue is easy to understand. The pick-ups from famous scores peak with the artful use of "The Love Theme" from Bernard Herrmann's score from Vertigo. And did I say there's an adorable dog who saves our hero in more ways than one? They should put this little terrier up for the role of Asta in the new Thin Man. He's a keeper.

Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent:

"it evokes memories of everything from A Star Is Born to Citizen Kane, from Scott Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby Stories to Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon and even Charlie Chaplin's Limelight. French director Hazanavicius (best known for spy spoof OSS 117) isn't the first film-maker in recent years to make a silent movie but he is doing it on a far grander scale than any of his predecessors…The Artist could easily have seemed very kitsch indeed. Thankfully, though, this is far more than just a knowing and ironic pastiche of old Hollywood silents. It is heartfelt too.

Sukhdev Sandhu, Telegraph:

"Begone snobs! The Artist is most out-and-out joyous film of the festival to date, a valentine to the glories of silent cinema, a triumph of artistic teleportation, pure effervescence that gives crowdpleasing a good name…By the end, it’s all you can do not to cheer on the seemingly star-crossed lovers and not to sigh about how they don’t make films like this anymore. Except, of course, Hazanavicius just has."

Todd McCarthy, THR:

"Hazanavicius and his key collaborators -- cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman and American production designer Laurence Bennett and costume designer Mark Bridges -- succeed in the important matter of approximating the general spirit and flavor of some late silent pictures, notably their energy, brio and direct emotional appeal...Filmed on studio stages as well as on old Hollywood streets, Artist evinces unlimited love for the look and ethos of the 1920s as well for the style of the movies. The filmmakers clearly did their homework and took great pleasure in doing so, an enjoyment that is passed along in ample doses to any viewer game for their nifty little conceit."

Jaya Yuan, NYMag:

"As for the endless applause, it seems to be a sort of cathartic release for audience members. You've spent a little under two hours watching people onscreen working through a sensory-deprivation bubble. They talk, they drop things, they slap each other in the face, and the only sound that emerges is beautifully composed orchestral music from Ludovic Bource of the Brussels Philharmonic. Even when the people onscreen enter the age of talking pictures, the movie we, as a modern audience, are watching remains silent. In the end, you feel as though you're clapping and cheering for the many audiences you just watched who clapped and cheered in silence. To show your appreciation, you give them sound."

Eric Kohn, indieWIRE:

"The Artist is all surface. Although easy on the eyes, it indulges in homage with no less gratuity than the references of Quentin Tarantino script. If the script had spoken dialogue in place of its anachronistic cue cards, it would be a relentless bore. The gimmick saves it, but just barely…the real star of the show is director of photography Guillaume Shiffman…Hazanavicius delivers an earnest love letter to the medium, but it’s not substantial enough to avoid unflattering comparisons to its superior reference points.

Kevin Jagernauth, ThePlaylist:

"We can’t remember the last time a film felt magical, but that’s the only word to describe The Artist. A big blast of pure delight on the Croisette there is no doubt at this point that The Artist has vaulted itself into a frontrunner at for the Palme d’Or...most importantly, The Artist is just flat out entertaining. In this ear when technology and brands seem to precede ideas and talent, Hazanavicius’ film is a reminder that a good story, with great acting (Dujardin gives a breakthrough performance) that delivers (more than) what it promises will always go further than gimmicks and temporary pop culture phenomenons."

This article is related to: Directors, Festivals, Genres, Independents, Stuck In Love, Reviews, Cannes, Classics, Weinsteins, Critics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.