6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2012
This clever take on the silent era is a valentine (note the titular character's name) to Old Hollywood and especially to lovers of classic movies. Unknown French director Michel Hazanavicius, who also wrote the screenplay, wanted to take on the challange of making a silent film, complete with black & white photography & title cards, in the 21st century. To say that he succeeded (whether you like the film or not) cannot be denied.
The movie opens in 1927 Hollywood. Silent superstar George Valentin (a combination of Douglas Fairbanks Sr & John Gilbert & played by French actor Jean Dujardin) is about to be caught up in the transition to sound. While he is dealing with this crisis, young extra Peppy Miller (a cross between the young Joan Crawford, Clara Bow, & Gloria Swanson & winningly played by Berenice Bejo who just happens to be the director's wife) makes the transition to sound and is on her way up. The parallel to A STAR IS BORN is obvious along with several other references to classic films such as CITIZEN KANE (the breakfast scene), SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (the sound test), & THE THIN MAN (the dog). For the end sequence, pick the Astaire-Rogers musical of your choice.
Along with the French performers, two American character actors are given prominent roles in the proceedings. John Goodman plays the classic Hollywood studio head complete with fat cigar while James Cromwell is George's loyal chauffeur (a reference to SUNSET BOULEVARD). Both adapt themselves well to the silent medium. While there are several references to other classic Hollywood films, THE ARTIST is more than just a simple homage. It's also the heartwarming story of two people headed in different directions with some lightweight comedy thrown in & one classic scene between Berenice Bejo & an empty coat.
Despite all the critical praise, THE ARTIST does have some issues from my perspective as an instructor on silent movies. Most of them are visual and won't be noticed by the casual filmgoer. The number one problem is with the lighting. Most silent films have a much more varied contrast between light & shadow (even the comedies of Chaplin, Keaton & Lloyd) but then silent films weren't shot in color on modern equipment and then turned into black & white. This also gives the film a rather flat look on occasion which becomes somewhat boring after awhile. I would have liked to see the lighting and photography change as the time frame moved from the silent to the sound era.
But this is scholarly nitpicking. I was delighted at how well THE ARTIST captures the spirit of the era although that era is much more the early 1930s than the late 1920s. I am even more delighted that it's reaching a mainstream audience who are now discovering the world of the silent cinema for the first time. In interviews director Hazanavicius said that that is what he hoped his "little film" would do, which it has. Silent films are not for everyone and never will be but they are a valid art form as different from sound films as ballet is from opera. For opening the door to a wider appreciation of the films of the distant past, THE ARTIST deserves its accolades.
The Artist (2012)
Comedy, Romance, Drama, 100 minutes
Directed by Michael Hazanavicius
Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and John Goodman
I make an effort to see all of the major Oscar bait, even if it's something that I am not sure I'll like. The Artist falls into that category. I have no problem with black and white or the use of the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, but a silent movie? The idea itself is superb of course. Most moviegoers are too young to remember the silent era, so why not provide a similar experience using modern technology?
Most of the reviews I have read have praised the movie and it's scooping awards at every major show. Is the hype justified?
Well, it was certainly an interesting experience. The audience was very respectful and quieter than for most movies. The movie is silent for the most part, but finds a couple of inventive ways to use both sounds and spoken dialogue. It's easy to follow the rather simple story and title cards are used when something absolutely has to be communicated to the audience. The acting is very good. Dujardin and Bejo have expressive faces that are up to the task. Dujardin has a lot of charm and seems to portray happiness with ease.
The audience didn't become involved very often. What few laughs there were usually came in response to the antics of Uggie the dog. In fact, that's the problem right there; involvement. The Artist was clever. I applaud the idea and the execution, but I just wasn't emotionally invested with the characters and the outcome. I found myself smiling at the technical feat of showing us 1927 and creating the atmosphere of the silent movie experience, but I didn't care enough about the characters.
Most of my favorite movies are driven by dialogue. I relish watching a Tarantino movie and could listen to the characters talk for hours. When that's removed, for me, so is some of the enjoyment.
I'll remember The Artist as a good idea that captured the imagination of a modern audience, but when you strip it down to what's actually on the screen and examine the strength of the story, something is lacking. I'm glad I saw it, but I won't buy it as I don't need to see it again. When the credits started rolling at the end of The Descendants and Midnight in Paris, I would have been happy to watch them again immediately. The Artist will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars, but I think eventually we'll look back at 2011 and think that it wasn't the best film that year.
For the idea and execution: 5/5
For the strength of story and replay value: 3/5
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I decided to watch The Artist for two reasons: 1) the overwhelmingly positive reviews and 2) because I'd seen its star, Jean Dujardin, in Lucky Luke and enjoyed his understated charisma and humour.
I didn't know much about the film before seeing it, but as it turns out, the plot isn't all that complex. A silent film star (George Valentin, played by Dujardin) is losing appeal because of the emergence of talkies. An unknown but ambitious actress, Peppy Miller (played by the director's wife, Bérénice Bejo), is a big fan of Valentin's and benefits from his mentorship early in her career, only to supplant him as the biggest star in Hollywood. The film details their early friendship; Valentin's fall into destitution as he fails to adapt to the changing landscape of film; and Miller's rise to fame, which is tempered by her guilt about being somewhat responsible for her idol's failing fortunes. The climax and resolution are tediously predictable.
As I said, the plot really isn't the film's strong point. Instead, it's the acting of the headliners, Dujardin and Bejo (John Goodman, who plays Valentin's boss, is fantastic as always). They come across as sympathetic and dynamic, and they manage to convey their thoughts and emotions very well without dialogue. They carry an otherwise sweet-bordering-on-saccharine/original-in-format-but-little-else film on their charming backs.
This film will not challenge you, unless you're a silent film aficionado who will enjoy nitpicking how it compares to its authentic progenitors. Otherwise, be prepared for a mostly enchanting, mostly well-acted whimsical movie...which is mostly devoid of any substantial conflict, suspense, intellectual stimulation, or take-home message.
Bonus points are granted for the dog, Jack, who is played by Uggie. He won a Palm Dog Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, which was richly deserved.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
THE ARTIST  [Special Édition Prestige] [Blu-ray + DVD + CD] [French Import] 'The Artist' is a love note to the movies!
Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Academy Award Winner Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller [Berenice Bejo], it seems the sky's the limit - major movie stardom awaits. `THE ARTIST' tells the story of their interlinked destinies. `THE ARTIST' is a love letter and homage to classic black-and-white silent films.
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, Uggie (Jack the dog), John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell, Bitsie Tulloch, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter, Jen Lilley, Nina Siemaszko, Jewel Shepard, Basil Hoffman, Ben Kurland, Ken Davitian, Bill Fagerbakke and Matt Skollar
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Producer: Thomas Langmann
Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius
Composer: Ludovic Bource
Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black & White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 [4:3]
Audio: French: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Running Time: 100 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 3
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures France
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: `The Artist' was both directed and written by Michel Hazanavicius. It's set in Hollywood during 1927 during the silent film era and the main character is a silent film movie star by the name of George Valentine [Jean Dejardin]. As the film starts out us the audience are treated to some footage from one of his films and the reaction by an audience in a theatre during the premier. Backstage the star, George, is watching and listening along with the head of the studio [John Goodman] to the reaction from the audience. It's a hit and the audience loves it. After the film ends George comes out, along with his canine co-star, to take a bow and thank the audience. His other co-star Constance [Missi Pyle] is absolutely furious that he chose to bring the dog out with him instead of her. Eventually the head of the studio sends her out onstage to join George. She gives some very unkind words to the star and takes her bow and thanks the audience; only to be sent offstage. George remains onstage with his canine co-star and eventually takes an exit stage left only to come back out as the audience is giving him a standing ovation of sorts. It's obvious from what we see here that this guy is perhaps the most popular silent film star at this point in Hollywood. He's at the peak of his career and loving it. He has such wonderful charisma and a great smile that it seems the world is his and sure to stay his for a good while to come.
After the premier of the film George exits the theatre and poses for photos from the members of the press while beautiful young ladies with their autograph books are giddy at the sight of the star and are being held back by police officers. One young lady in that crowd ends up dropping what appears to be her autograph booklet and bends down to pick it up yet manages to end up making it through the police officer holding her and the other ladies back. She bumps right into the silent film sensation that is George Valentine. At first it's very awkward not only between Mr. Valentine and her but also to the members of the press whose jaws almost drop. Eventually Valentine plays it off and his blank stare turns to a very encouraging smile. The young lady is relieved and she smiles and tries to play along with the moment. The members of the press ask for the two to pose for some photographs, which they do. She decides to plant a kiss on the side of Valentine's cheek and that photo ends up on the front page of the trade magazine Variety the very next day with the headline "Who's That Girl" -- the thought on everyone's mind; especially the audience at this point. We see the very next day George wake up and come to breakfast with his wife Doris [Penelope Ann Miller] who happens to be reading that trade magazine and doesn't seem too pleased by the photo. It's obvious these two have some marital issues but George just tries to play it off with his charisma and wonderful sense of physical humour by dipping his nose into his breakfast and sitting there with an innocent look on his face.
The young lady who ended up breaking out of the crowd the night before and posed for the pictures is named Peppy Miller [Bérénice Bejo]. She's absolutely excited that she's on the front page of Variety with that headline aimed at her. She decides this is the best time if any to try her hand at becoming an actress so she shows up the very next day to Kinograph Studios, the studio where George Valentine does his films. Peppy Miller sits down to wait for the chance to be an extra. She sits down next to a man [Malcolm McDowell] and show's him the trade paper with her picture on the front page. He flips the trade paper over and runs his hand across the headline questioning who she is, if to emphasize she's going to have to do a lot more than that to make it in Hollywood. Peppy Miller takes his gesture in stride and eventually gets the chance to go up in front of a casting guy who's looking for three girls who can dance. The first two girls standing beside her immediately begin to dance and he tells them they have the parts as extras. Peppy is next up and he asks her if she can dance to which she replies physically with one very energetic dance and irresistible facial gestures. The guy casting the parts of extras is simply blown away and all smiles. Even though there's no dialogue shown in text we can tell she gets the part as she begins to physically celebrate. She turns back to the man she had shown the trade paper to earlier and tells him her name; as if to tell him he should remember it as he's going to be hearing a lot of it in the future. The girl has spunk; you can tell that much and she is destined for great things. Her first film she's featured in as an extra involves her dancing alongside her hero George Valentine. The two have chemistry both onscreen and off-screen but the fact he's married causes some real complications as you'd imagine. Yet the two become friends and he even gives her some tips on how to become a famous actress.
As I mentioned earlier silent film star George Valentine seems to be at the peak of his career but something happens one day in 1929 (two years after the beginning of the film) that changes things majorly in his life. After he's finished shooting a scene for his latest film the head of the studio asks George to come see something. He takes him into a dark screening room with other studio members where he shows him footage of what will later become known as "talkies" -- films that feature actual audio dialogue recordings. George watches but after the screening is over he gets up and laughs and attempts to leave the room. Before he can leave the screening room the head of the studio tells him not to laugh because it's the future, to which George replies along the lines of saying that if that's the future he can have it. This seems to be the beginning of the end for George's career as he refuses to do "talkies" and when the studio decides to halt production on all silent films. He's absolutely heartbroken but he doesn't give up. He has encouragement and support from his chauffeur and friend Clifton [James Cromwell] who refuses to leave his side. Meanwhile, Peppy Miller has been working her way up from being just an extra in various films all the way to co-starring and starring roles in silent films. She's eventually picked to be one of the new faces of Kinograph Studios in their transition to "talkies" and soon becomes a star of the silver screen. It seems that a complete reversal here has happened with George being let go from the studio and her rising to fame. What happens here after this point you'll have to watch the film to see. As I won't spoil that as it's a very amazing film with lots of emotion, rough history regarding silent films demise, Hollywood's transition to "talkies" and a very nice bit of both comedy and romance thrown in as well.
As was often the case in those days, the cast of `The Artist' includes actors with many different native tongues, because what difference did it make? John Goodman makes a bombastic studio head, and such familiar faces as James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle and Ed Lauter turn up.
Jean Dujardin is well-known in France. I've seen him in a successful series of spoofs about OSS 117, which you will see I have done a Blu-ray Review on both films released on Blu-ray and are fantastic, where you will see a Jean Dujardin as a Gallic secret agent who mixes elements of 007 and Inspector Clouseau. He would indeed have made a great silent star. His face is almost too open and expressive for sound, except comedy. As Norma Desmond, the proud silent star in "Sunset Boulevard," hisses: "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!" Jean Dujardin's face serves perfectly for the purposes here. More than some silent actors, he can play subtle as well as broad, and that allows him to negotiate the hazards of some unbridled melodrama at the end. I felt a great affection for him.
I've seen `The Artist' about three times so far, and each time it was applauded, perhaps because the audience was surprised at itself for liking it so much. It's good for holiday time, speaking to all ages in a universal language. Silent films can weave a unique enchantment. During a good one, I fall into a reverie, an encompassing absorption that drops me out of time. While it's an impressive achievement, and clearly a labour of love on behalf of the writer and director Michel Hazavanicius, as well as being love letter to Hollywood.
I love black and white films, which some people assume they will not like. For me, it's more stylised and less realistic than colour, more dreamlike, more concerned with essences than details. That said, creating a silent movie for a modern audience is a bold move, and the film has been executed with aplomb. `The Artist' represents moviemaking as it once was without most of today's tools, and while it looks and sounds and feels different, its proof positive that a film is still a film by and through any fad or trend or technology. It's the story of two people moving artistically apart but in other ways together as all they've known changes for the better or for the worse. It's a tale of acceptance, moving forward, and honouring the past rather than unrealistically and stubbornly championing and clinging to it.
Blu-ray Video Quality - On this release is in full stunning 1080p encoded image in BLACK & WHITE in the 1.33:1 [4:3] aspect ratio. Because of this the aspect ratio has black pillar bars on the sides. That's normal. According to the technical specifications on IMDb this was shot on Super 35mm film using the PanArri 435 ES and Panavision Super Speed MKII cameras. In fact, here is a very interesting article with the Director of Photography Guillaume Schiffman discussing his cinematography work and those cameras he used. An interesting fact here is the film was actually shot at 22 frames per second and then turned to the traditional 24 frames per second to give the effect of movement from the old silent film era. Another few interesting facts here for you regarding how the film was shot, because it was actually shot on traditional Kodak colour film and then was turned to Black & White in post-production. Also, the DP mentions that he went to Panavision and asked for some older lenses to use to give the film the older visual style. This turns out really beautiful and is a total "throwback" to the days of silent films. The only difference here in comparison to original silent films from the era the film takes place in is that you get one hell of a lot more clarity here because they used Super 35mm film. This has an absolute amazing abundance of detail throughout the film, especially in those close-ups of the two main characters. It looks totally stunning and also beautiful image in Hi-Definition and earns a perfect "5 Star Rating" for overall video quality. It's no wonder it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography. But what I can tell you that this Special Édition Prestige Blu-ray, the Black & White image is far superior to the normal Bly-ray edition and will have you speechless when you view the image. But of course with this French Blu-ray all the word panels informing what is being spoken are in French, but despite this, it is worth getting something that is totally awesome image wise.
Blu-ray Audio Quality - On this release is presented in an awesome 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. You might first ask yourself why a silent film would need a 5.1 mix and the answer to that has a whole lot to do with the film's original music score done by Ludovic Bource. Also, sure it's a throwback to the way old silent films were presented but this is a lot more unique than any of those classic silent films. The reason for that is that this film was mixed with a 5.1 Surround mix in mind, unlike the films back then that were a Mono mix with a single speaker in mind. You get a musical presentation here that almost entirely carries the film throughout with a few exceptions. There's an excellent amount of rear channel presence and bass as well at times. The music here ranges from upbeat to subtle mellow, to downright intense. The musical instruments here are what really make the most emphasis on bass via the subwoofer; namely the percussion instruments. The intense musical parts are the main moments when the amount of sound is at its peak and is sure to get your attention and set the mood perfectly for what's happening in the film.
The fact there's no pauses for dialogue here means that there's almost constantly music playing to accompany the visuals and text that displays key dialogue. There are some exceptions where for instance there will be short pauses in between musical numbers where you'll get a few seconds of silence. There's also a point around 30 minutes in the film where it turns first to total silence for a short bit and is then followed by nothing but sound effects. Here you'll hear strong emphasis on every single noise happening around the main character. This is a very intense sequence and like the intense musical moments grabs your attention and sets the mood of the film perfectly. Shortly after this sound effects sequence there's roughly a good 30 seconds or so of silence before the music starts back. The sequence itself lasts roughly around 3 minute's total. That's one of the few exceptions that I mentioned earlier where the original music doesn't entirely carry the film.
All and all this sound mix is downright impressive to be roughly 98% just the original score. It sounds absolutely beautiful and is mixed wonderfully in a 5.1 configuration as well as makes definite use of an audio format like DTS-HD Master Audio. This may upset some of you but I totally stand behind this decision. I give this a very impressive "5 Star Rating" for overall audio quality. Gripe all you like about it only being a silent film, but the sound, namely the music, plays a very, very important role here and is almost a character itself in the film. Ludovic Bource`s original score is done complete and utter justice and is a downright pleasure to hear in lossless 5.1 audio.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary with Michel Hazanavicius: Director Michel Hazanavicius has some entertaining or enlightening things to say about the film. [French]
The Artist: The Making of an American Romance [1080p [33:23] includes interviews with cast members James Cromwell, John Goodman, Bérénice Bejo, Missi Pyle, Penelope Ann Miller, Jean Dujardin, Malcolm McDowell as well as the writer and director Michel Hazanavicius and film critic/historian Wade Major. The folks giving interviews here all discuss the characters and the plot to the film, some of which include "spoilers", so save this for after you've seen the film. There's some really cool behind-the-scenes footage on set here as well. They also discuss the history of Hollywood and silent films as well as the first "talkie" "The Jazz Singer" from 1929 which brought great change to Hollywood and even the transition problems some silent film actors had trying to do these films. [French with English Subtitles]
Gallery Photos [1080p] [2:20]
Bloopers Reel [2:06] A fun but brief reel of silent bloopers is included that shows a few blown takes and silly interactions between the actors. [French]
Recording the soundtrack session in Brussels interview with Ludovic Bource [15:41] [French] In the silent film `The Artist' by Michel Hazavanicius, he talks about how the music plays a vital role. It was in the recording studio composer Ludovic Bource speaks generously from this experience, working with the Brussels Philharmonic of Flanders. He also talks about love he has with the relationship with the cinematic image and my musical identity is a contemporary romance. Yet today when I listen to the music of `The Artist,' and I compare my work on two OSS 117, who are also orchestral although very different, I sense an evolution. But this experience is still very much alive and I need to step back and analyse my work. He also talks about how to convey emotion; music globally in replacing dialogue and provides a form of balance between the images and they. I was able to express through music the images that we could not show. [French]
Finally, 'The Artist' is a truly moving and beautiful film that celebrates and recreates the magic of silent cinema and the performances, cinematography, and dramatic is very enjoyable and entertaining. Still, though it may be familiar, like an old, favourite song it's well worth another listen. The picture yields exceptional performances and a faultless throwback appearance, plus the video and audio are both a stunning presenting and giving a respectful and authentic experience. Supplements offer an informative and entertaining peek into the film's production, but as I say the whole package is in French, but it is still worth purchasing. Its Best Picture win was justified, but there is no denying that 'The Artist' is a very good film, and thankfully this disc does it justice. It's in every way a film about the films in transition should be, and `The Artist' is one of the year's finest pictures. Warner Bros. Pictures France Blu-ray release of `The Artist' features again stunning video and audio presentation, plus several supplements are included. But the main reason I purchased this French Special Édition Prestige Blu-ray, is because to see the awesome packaging is out of this world, as it is gate folded that is printed in stunning Black and White. But another bonus is that it holds both the Blu-ray and DVD discs and on top of all that you get the Bonus of the Soundtrack Compact Disc. Sadly seeing the actual photo on the Amazon web page does not do it justice. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller - Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom