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The Artist


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Amazon.com: 36 reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
The sound of silents Nov. 29 2011
By Jon Broxton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Each year, around this time, an unexpected art house film emerges as a critical darling with Academy Awards potential. It happened to Life is Beautiful in 1998, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in 2000, Brokeback Mountain in 2005, Juno in 2007, Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, Precious in 2009... the list goes on and on. In 2011, that film could be The Artist, director Michel Hazanavicius's story about a silent movie matinee idol in 1920s Hollywood whose career is threatened by the advent of sound in motion pictures. The difference here, unlike those other films, is that The Artist is a silent film itself, shot in black and white and in such a way that the style and tone of the piece mirrors the very films in which Hazanavicius's protagonist appears. The movie stars Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle and Penelope Ann Miller, and has already opened to great critical acclaim in the United States.

Back in the early part of the 20th century, films were often accompanied by a live pianist performing `photoplay music', or by an orchestra performing classical music of the day, to accentuate the mood of the film. Occasionally directors would hire composers to write original music that would be played during the film's performance - the first recorded instance of this was in 1908 when the revered classical composer Camille Saint-Saëns wrote 15 minutes of original music for the historical drama L'Assassinat du duc de Guise, and later Joseph Carl Breil's wrote a significant score for D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation in 1915 - but the first feature-length film with synchronized sound effects and a pre-recorded musical soundtrack was the 1926 film Don Juan, which had a score by William Axt and David Mendoza, and came out a year before Al Jolson changed the world with The Jazz Singer. It is against this backdrop, and with these early stylistics in mind, that French composer Ludovic Bource approached The Artist.

Ludovic Bource scored the director's previous three features - Mes Amis in 1999, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies in 2006 and OSS 117: Lost in Rio in 2009 - as well as a handful of short films and a 2009 documentary called Nous Resterons Sur Terre, but other than that is a virtual unknown, both inside France and internationally. This could all change with The Artist. Being a silent film, with all that implies (no audible dialogue, no sound effects), the music for The Artist takes on a whole new dimension, having to convey every emotion, every nuance, and every direction of the story without overwhelming the film. In his research prior to writing the music, Bource looked at the scores from Charlie Chaplin's films, as well as early works by composers such as Max Steiner, Franz Waxman and Bernard Herrmann, trying to re-create that classic sound in 2011. Remember, no-one has really scored films like this since 1936, when Charlie Chaplin released Modern Times, the last significant conventional "silent film" made before talkies became the dominant entertainment media.

On the whole, Bource has succeeded admirably, recapturing the sound of the earliest part of the Golden Age, while simultaneously crafting a score which is thematically appealing and enjoyable to modern audiences - no mean feat. Having said that, listeners unused to hearing the unashamedly romantic stylings that flourished during that period, or who are not accustomed to a total and utter lack of subtlety in their film music, are likely to be confused or, worse still, totally turned off by The Artist's intentionally old-fashioned sound.

Parts of The Artist have a Franz Waxman sound from his Bride of Frankenstein years; elsewhere, it could be Alfred Newman, Cole Porter, Gershwin, Charlie Chaplin, Carl Stalling, or an early Disney underscore by composers like Leigh Harline or Frank Churchill. At other times, Bource seems to be intentionally channeling the big romantic symphonic repertoire of the 19th century via composers such as Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel and Brahms, all to generally excellent effect. Be aware that I'm not saying that Bource is being unoriginal with these references; it's all done to illustrate the musical conventions of a specific time and a specific place, and Bource does it with all the flair and panache of a true homage.

The theme for the main character, "George Valentin", is an infectiously upbeat string-based strut, with a prominent xylophone part and a virtuoso piano line, capturing the easy breezy life of a man about town in the golden age of silent cinema. The theme and it's orchestrations are carried over into the charming romantic piece for "Pretty Peppy", George's romantic interest, and into later cues such as the lovely and lush "Fantasie d'Amour", and the quirky "Jungle Bar".

Everything about the score is larger than life; the classic Hollywood flourishes of the opening "Artist Ouverture"; the adventurous brass phrasing and mickey-mouse Korngold-inspired action music of "1927: A Russian Affair" or "Silent Rumble", the beautiful romantic piano solo in "Comme Une Rosée de Larmes", and the stark and dissonant "L'Ombre des Flammes", which has a wonderfully chaotic and occasionally unexpectedly brutal action music conclusion that could have come straight from Steiner's King Kong. "In the Stairs" has a hesitant, almost childlike idyll, with a pretty piano line and blushing, swooning strings accompanied by delicate woodwinds, chimes and harp glissandi, capturing perfectly the burgeoning relationship between the two leads. Conversely, the more tragedy-laden "The Sound of Years" has a sense of both despondent yearning in its lower-register string writing and sweeping, grand guignol heartbreak when the violins pick up the lead of the piece during it's second half.

The score concludes in outstanding fashion, beginning with the charming and sweeping "Happy Ending", which as one might imagine is filled with lush romantic strings and flighty flute impressions. The violence of the shadow of flames from earlier in the score reappears in the rather shocking penultimate cue, "Ghosts from the Past", before everything comes to a solemn, tragic end in "My Suicide", a moving string lament which restates the Sound of Tears theme and finishes the score proper on a largely downbeat, but appropriate note of large-scale pathos.

The conclusive jazz piece, "Peppy and George", re-arranges and re-orchestrates George's buoyant theme for the big band sound of Benny Goodman, complete with a faithful homage to the classic Gene Krupa big drum sound. A couple of source cues and songs, ranging from a performance of Alberto Ginastera's ballet Estancia (which is slightly anachronistic as it was written in 1941), Duke Ellington's "Jubilee Stomp" and songs by Jay Livingston and Johnny Burke, round out the album, adding to the 1920s feel.

If The Artist continues to wow critics in independent theaters across America, and if I know the way the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thinks - and I'm usually pretty good as predicting these things - then this score will likely take home the Oscar for Best Original Score next spring. I'm not saying this is the best score of the year - there are several which rank above it on my own personal list - but this is exactly the kind of thing the Academy likes to honor. Foreign composer, arty film, not likely to pick up many other awards in other categories... it ticks all the right boxes, for sure. It also helps that the score is genuinely very good in and of itself, despite - or perhaps because of - its authentic period sound and sensibility, which is likely to alienate younger listeners more attuned to Remote Control power anthems, but will utterly delight others.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A showcase of what might have been... Dec 13 2011
By Storylover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Silent films are a bit of an acquired taste for modern audiences, but from the advent of "movies" as we understand them in the early 1900's to about 1930 or so, "talkies" were essentially unthinkable. Silent films were all about image--the grand gesture, the longing look, the outstretched hand. There was no dialogue to distract the viewer from the visual medium, but there was...Music. Glamorous, dazzling music, sometimes--sometimes orchestral in sweep, sometimes tinkly and small; sometimes designed to be played live with the picture, sometimes integrated into the film, but always providing that auditory link to the emotional life of the characters the helped to hook the audience. Ludovic Bource has clearly inhabited the soul of the scores from the 1920's to early 1930's with his grand, swashbuckling gestures and his swaggering jazz era numbers. This score is, above all things, gorgeous to listen to, full of memorable tunes and generous melodies. From the toe tapping, Gershwin channeling "George Valentin" to almost Puccini-esque evocation of "In the stairs", from the lush "The Sound of Tears" to the dance hall jazz of "Peppy and George", this is a treat for the ears. Playing "spot the influence" is fun, but above all, Bource has created his own original take on the era, inspired by but not a copy of those wonderful silent film scores, inventive and playful, and a joy to discover.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A Rare Experience. A Brilliant Score Dec 22 2011
By Kaya Savas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Score has always been the one constant through narrative filmmaking. If modern day films share one major aspect with the silent film era (besides storytelling) it's musical score. Before filmmakers had the ability to record dialogue and sound effects they relied on live music played by a piano player inside the theater for every show. Then finally when sound could be recorded onto film music was the first thing. It's just a natural storytelling device, and to this day remains the most important aspect of filmmaking. So, what would you say if there was a silent film released in 2011? For The Artist we do indeed have a silent film made in 2011, and just like when film started out we have score front and center.

Ludovic Bource's score is a stunning reminder of how score functioned when it was the only sound the audience would here. The vital importance of this music is so unique when compared to other films today. The score on this album works hand in hand with the actors to tell every bit of the story, and what a fabulous experience it is. The music moves up and down and you can almost visualize movement because of how structured to the story it is. The score as a whole is rich and full of different sections of emotions. The characters shine through as the score defines every bit of the characters. While the score has certain genre tendencies it definitely doesn't feel like something composed back in the 30's or 40's. It does have a lot of musical stylings that represent the time period of the story, but it's no different than a modern day composer incorporating setting and atmosphere into a score. Just because the music has a 1930's feel doesn't mean the score is trying to be a score from that era. This is indeed a modern silent film score and a beautiful one at that.

It's very rare to get to experience something like this. If you wanted to you could listen to the score separately and then see the film and how it molds to the picture. Sure you can go back and watch some great Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin but having an original recording of a silent film score separate for release is a unique experience. I highly recommend everyone take a listen to Bource's magnificent work.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I'm in Love with the Artist! Feb. 12 2012
By movie lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Since the day the CD of "The Artist" arrived, I have played it and played it so many times, I've lost count! I absolutely LOVED the movie and the music? C'est manifique!!! Just beautiful! If the Oscar voters have an ounce of brains, "The Artist" will SWEEP each and every category they're in, especially Actor (Ah, mon ami!) and music. Get on amazon.com and order your copy of the "Artist" CD. Just beautiful!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Music Homage/Lifted? Dec 30 2011
By readyrr - Published on Amazon.com
While I loved the movie--The Artist is definitely one of the best films of the year--I have always claimed an ear for music, and The Artist is no exception. There is a whole passage of music near the end of the movie--it was either the fire or the near-suicide scene--that startled me, because it was an entire section of Bernard Hermann's soundtrack for Vertigo, wherein the character of Judy emerges from the shadows of a seedy hotel room, revealing herself as a spitting image of Scottie Ferguson's lost dead obsession of Madeleine. I recall the music and the scene because it's one of the most beautiful, haunting, goose-pimpling scenes of all time. I could never forget the images or the music! If the soundtrack of The Artist is being touted as original, why has there been no mention that the director borrowed/lifted part of the Vertigo soundtrack? Just wondering...

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