Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Opens locally Friday, December 23rd, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies )
What a relief, that The Artist is upon us. In a day and age where we are continuously bombarded with too much information, with movies packed with explosions, effects, and 3-D imagery, The Artist transports us back to a simpler time in history. It is no surprise that The Artist is the early front-runner for Oscar gold (not to mention this year’s recipient for Best Picture and Best Director winner as awarded by the Detroit Film Critics Society).
The Artist is a silent film…not devoid of sound, but a silent film as was popular before the “talking pictures” became mainstream following the success of the 1927 film The Jazz Singer. In The Artist, we meet George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who is a major film star of the silent era on the brink of the advent of talking pictures in the late 20s. Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) is a beautiful young actress looking for her big break. As George scoffs at “talkies” as a passing fad, his popularity eventually decreases while Peppy rides the new innovation to fame.
The Artist is a film-lovers dream, with a beautifully relatable story for this or any other era. Being a silent film, it pays homage to the classics of year’s past, and includes a lot of clever dialogue…much of the early dialogue, shown as text in the film, deals with people telling other people to “speak!” or “they want to hear you talk!” Being so programmed to take in a film as we are used to (with dialogue and natural sound), it was stunning to experience a film as somebody would have at the turn of the 20th century, where the thematic music is relied upon to match the mood of what we are seeing on-screen. Having to rely more on imagery, The Artist astounds by creating beautiful shot sequences and scenes that culminate into a visual masterpiece.
For a silent film, The Artist has a lot to say thematically about clinging to the past, acceptance, and adapting in order to survive. We all hold on to our pasts in some way, and this commonality makes The Artist relatable in surprising and refreshing ways.
Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are not household names here in the U.S., but they should be soon. Both give mesmerizing performances that capture the star power of the time. Director Michel Hazanavicius creates a triumph, staging each shot with an authenticity that makes you think that The Artist could have been released in the 20s or 30s. It is a valentine to film history fused with brilliant performances, delivered to a modern-day audience at precisely the right time. Few films of any era are able to create such a perfect storm of aptitude and importance.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wildly popular performance of George’s sidekick, the Jack Russell Terrier known as Uggie. How popular is this dog? Would you believe there is a push to get him special recognition at this year’s Oscars?
Whether or not you believe a canine deserves an Oscar,The Artist is among the year’s best films, and I suspect that it will stand out as one of the most unique films of this young decade. Thank you, Michel Hazanavicius, for reminding us that less is more. You say it best by having nothing said at all.
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