The Artist (2011)

the artist poster 2011 movie best picture
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Nice homage to silent film, very experimental in a modern market

Some won't be able to get by seeing a silent, black-and-white film

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Artist

Studio: La Petite Reine

Genre(s): Silent/Drama/Comedy/Musical

Release Date(s): May 15, 2011 (Cannes)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

the artist jean dujardin berenice bejo

Come to this studio often?

It is 1927 and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the top of his game.  He is the star of the silent screen with his dog Jack, and the hits keep putting people in the seats.  When his studio owner Al Zimmer (John Goodman) reveals that a new invention that brings sound to pictures has been created, Valentin scoffs at the idea…but progress can’t be stopped.  As Valentin’s fame begins to fade, a new star in Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is on the rise and Hollywood has a new “It” girl.  Valentin is at the end of his rope and his future is bleak…will he find his voice or has time passed him by?

Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is a black-and-white silent picture comedy-drama.  Premiering at Cannes, the film was released to positive reviews and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Dujardin), Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score with nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Bejo), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.

The Artist was a weird aberration.  It was a (mostly) silent movie and a black-and-white movie…in a time when big bright explosions and wordy films rule the screen.  The Artist is a charming film that gets a lot right but it also feels like it misses some opportunities.

the artist jean dujardin uggie

When you are constantly being upstaged by a dog

The story of the transition between silent pictures and talkies has been a subject before in movies like Singin’ in the Rain.  It took a lot of actors out of contention because they just didn’t have the voice for pictures.  Through the course of the movie, you see Valentin struggling with this and you don’t know if he has a bad voice or if it is a matter of pride…it turns out to be a little of both since he has a thick French accent in his speaking line.  His story is contrasted to the charming Peppy who is built for the talky world.  She is young and on the way up as he is falling and fading.

Dujardin is interesting in that the movie is kind of built for him.  As a Frenchman, French is his primary language, and like his character, it can be challenging for people working in another language to make it in Hollywood simply because it is an extra step that filmmakers don’t always want to commit to.  Bérénice Bejo is likewise charming and gives off a real Parker Posey vibe.  Both have a strong supporting cast including John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell, Penelope Ann Miller, and a lot of attention was given to the canine costar Uggie as Jack.

the artist george valentin jean dujardin

I have no mouth and I must scream

The Artist is visually and aurally compelling, It is shot in classic screen ratio proportions and has crisp black-and-white imagery.  I also feel this is where the movie could have gone from good to great.  There is a dream sequence where Valentin starts to hear everything and the scene is a great shock to the viewer since the film has been silent.  I wish that trended had continued.  As everyone else and society finds its voice, Valentin is left behind in a world of silence.  We’d hear Peppy and others as sound passes him…and it would have made the last sequence where he finds his voice even more momentous.

The Artist is a completely different and very original movie in a time when movies are often accused of just being remakes and sequels (even more so since its 2011 release).  It isn’t a perfect movie, but it is a movie with a lot of heart and vision that isn’t always present in films.  It was nice to go back and review, and if you missed the movie or saw it when it was new, The Artist has some enduring nature…I’d love to see what happened next.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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