The Artist

★★★★ A+

Directed by Michael Hazanavicius
Screenplay by Michael Hazanavicius
Jean Dujardin: George Valentine
Bérénice Bejo: Peppy Miller
John Goodman: Al Zimmer

Who needs sound?

The Artist is, in my opinion, one of the best movies I have seen in 2011. 
5 stars out 4!!!!! Best Picture Winner!!!

This fabulous film first made splash at the Cannes film festival in France and unlike other entries into the such as Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and Terrance Mallick’s “Tree of Life,” which were both American submissions, “The Artist” was actually a French movie though it may be viewed in English. Whether the 4 lines this movie contains were recorded in English or French, I must admit that I do not know.

The plot centers around George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who was the biggest star of his time in 1927 Hollywood, the height of the silent film era. His friends would have been Charlie Chaplin (an idol of mine) and Buster Keaton, two of the greatest silent film legends of all time. The film opens with him wearing a bandit’s mask, cleverly breaking people out of jail with the help of the best supporting actor all year, his dog (Uggie, who is actually eligible for an academy award even though he is not human (RinTinTin actually received an Oscar nomination that very year (1927) in real life and was the front runner to win!)). However, it doesn’t take long for us to discover the that Valentine is actually backstage of a grand theatre, sold out to see his new film. Backstage we also meet Al Zimmer (John Goodman), who is a high ranking studio executive at Kinograph Studios and friend of Valentin’s.

However, after the showing, as he glamorously exits, one girl (Bernice Bejo) falls onto the red carpet by mistake, but Valentin is okay with this and plays along. The next day however, his wife sees a picture of them kissing on the front page and grows enraged, but that’s okay because she’s a completely unlikable character. And, at the studio the Valantin meets this mysterious woman again who plays an extra in his next film and it here we discover her name is Peppy Miller.

Throughout the movie, the film industry changes and the movie’s sly editing takes from a silent led 1927 to 1929, the start of the talkies. George however is not right for talking films and thinks them as cheating. In the end his pride wins out and he decides to keep making silent pictures, but Kinograph studios won’t even back him, so he has to write, star, direct, and produce (and in turn finance) himself, and creates one of his best yet, but fails to outshadow talkies and is forced into financial ruin by the depression. But Peppy Miller is the biggest thing in Hollywood! Why, she’s the town’s sweetheart before her movie even comes out!

I don’t want to ruin anything else for you, but I would like to talk of some of the cinematic and theatrical wonders of the film, starting with Jean Dujardin. He is phenomenal and most likely a frontrunner for the Best Actor Award at the Oscars after winning it in Cannes. He plays a stereotypical silent film part on camera, but off then, he switches to a subdued persona, common in many films, but odd for something for which has no audio. Bejo is the same only she is so angelic and lovable as a character, she can get away with a bit more dramatic of a performance. Goodman was also fantastic and in a slightly different way as his part was more straightforward than the others.

The score fits so elegantly and there is an ambient glow about all of the whites in the foreground of this picture. The little amount of writing is spectacular. For those interested in the technical aspects of film, this silent film is also the host to the best Foley work I’ve ever seen, and has amazing visuals, all of which predicated on what was and wasn’t in silent films of the ‘20’s.

I strongly suggest everyone find a theatre where this film is showing and indulge yourself on this beauty of a bygone era. It’s a true masterpiece. ¤

Lane J. Lubell

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