The Artist should not have been given the Oscar for Best Picture of 2011. That was an absolute display of daftness on the part of the Academy. Nevertheless, I will absolutely purchase this on DVD (Blu Ray, pffft) when it is released, and I intend to see it in theaters one more time.
Perhaps the reason the Academy was so enchanted with this motion picture (nominated for ten Academy Awards) is due to its irresistible charm. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a cocksure yet warm star of the silent era, a mix of Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. The public’s demand for Valentin fades as talking pictures emerge, with new heroes (such as Peppy Miller, played by the delightful Bérénice Bejo) adorning the silver screen.
Bejo is probably best known to Americans from her small role in “A Knight’s Tale,” but she’s essentially been a European actor all this time (I didn’t recognize her, and neither did my companion, who lists “A Knight’s Tale” in her top ten films). In any bloody event, if we can say someone has a breakout role despite success overseas, then we can say it about Bejo.
“The Artist” has had some controversies. In England, for example, some patrons sued theaters because it was not made clear that it was a silent film. Anyone that files a lawsuit over that should be slapped in the face by the Defendant. If the UK is trying to lower itself to America’s standards of mouthbreathing assholery, then job well done, you prats. Even if someone didn’t know The Artist was a black and white picture with mostly no sound (there is a musical soundtrack, for example), there really is no reason not to have enjoyed the presentation. Putting aside the great performances of actors like Dujardin, Bejo and John Goodman, the film is presented in the style of a silent movie. The film is, as mentioned, void of color, absent spoken dialog, and displayed in the 4:3 ratio of pictures from the silent cinema. Even the opening credits are mocked up in the style of bygone days. I had goosebumps before the characters even hit the screen, it was such a thrilling recreation.
The film has been criticized for borrowing “Scene d’Amour” by the great Bernard Herrmann from “Vertigo,” with star Kim Novak even likening it to rape. It didn’t bother me at the time, and it’s certainly not theft (used with permission), but I can see how movie buffs or people familiar with the score may have been taken out of the movie. It’s probably sloppy on the part of director Michel Hazanavicius, who could have had some sappy, maudlin music written that was inspired by Herrmann without completely reusing it.
Finally, I have heard many people say the second half drags, and while I usually avoid other people’s criticisms when doing my own review, I am sympathetic to those remarks. It didn’t bother me that much, but the movie could have been boosted with more emphasis on the great comedic work of Dujardin and Bejo and less on the depressing descent of Valentin.
Despite all that, I found the movie to be fun, humorous, touching, and clever. Hazanavicius has worked with Dujardin and Bejo before, even working with Bejo in the marital bed, so the trio already had a rich rapport that translated quite well. I would love to see the group again, and I am looking forward to him helming the remaking of “The Search” starring none other than Bejo. I highly recommend seeing “The Artist,” and if you can catch it in theaters, do so. With all the emphasis on 3D and big budget special effects, this is a film that actually has a genuine life to it.