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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: June 28: The Artist


June 28: The Artist

"Silent movie star George Valentin bemoans the coming era of talking pictures and fades into oblivion and self-destruction, but finds sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer lighting up talkies like no one else."
Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius Rated: PG-13, 100 minutes

The Artist is a terrific film that takes us back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and reminds us of the magic of the movies. It's beautifully filmed, with the effects and camera shots you'd find in the 20s, with great set pieces and wonderful costumes. The movie does its hardest to be authentic and does a very good job at channeling the past. It's very easy to get lost in the magic, and; The Artist genuinely feels like a classic that came out in the Great Depression era. 2011 is a great year for movies and The Artist, along with Hugo, are perfect reminders of how incredible the silver screen can be. Rich with history, classic movie references, and so much respect for the art itself, The Artist is the kind of film we need these days, with so many movies being forgettable and unoriginal. 

George Valentin (Academy Award Winner Jean DuJardin) is a washed up silent era movie star who can't make the transition into talkies. As his career is declining, the beautiful Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) has her's just beginning, as she's found stardom in the era of talking movies. Contemporaries at one point, the two's careers spiral into completely opposite directions, Valentin hitting rock bottom and Miller being the Hollywood "It" girl that everyone falls in love with. Valentin struggles while Miller shines, but even after her success, Miller continues to admire the down and out Valentin. The Artist is more a story of friendship than it is of love, and while the two leads clearly feel something for each other, it's more about the human emotion, and worrying about the thought of becoming irrelevant. One does not want to wake up one day and mean nothing to the world and The Artist does a fine job showing that actually happening to a very talented man. It's a humbling experience, for both Valentin and the audience, and we're reminded that the past should not be simply swept away and replaced with the new, but should be embraced for what it is. 

And realizing that a funny walk, a face gesture, or over-sized shoes can warrant more laughs than you could ever imagine

The best part of The Artist is the cast, led by a perfect Jean Dujardin. A French actor who was practically completely unknown in America, he shines as the tragic hero and has made his mark in Hollywood. In a silent film, the power of the actor is what makes it good, and Dujardin is brilliant. Every smile, eye brow raise, and hand gesture is a complete throwback to the movies of the past, and he is very believable as a silent era star. He channels a combination of Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino and he's absolutely amazing to watch. Of course, a leading man cannot go without a leading lady and the gorgeous Bérénice Bejo fills the role of Peppy Miller with poise and a presence you can't help but fall in love with. She is genuinely believable as an "It" girl of the past and is the film's driving force of optimism, never letting up and always hopeful. In a sense, she's the heroine to the hero and without her, The Artist would just be a glimpse into the complete downfall and destruction of one man. It's also worth mentioning the third star, Uggie the dog, who follows Valentin throughout the film, starting as his co-star in his successful pictures, and then as his only friend. 

A man's best friend, through thick and thin. 

I would highly recommend The Artist. Nothing in recent years is like it and it's in its reverence and reference to the early days of Hollywood that makes it feel fresh and original. The fact that the movie is filmed in black and white and is nearly completely silent only adds to its genuineness. Director Michel Hazanavicius does a beautiful job. It's a marvel to watch and witnessing the magic reminds you how good movies can really be. It's a movie about movies and the joy of watching and making them. It's a pleasant jump start to a hopefully new era of film where originality, heart, and incredible acting are the stars, and childish jokes, gimmicky special effects, and predicable plots fade into the past. It's about time a movie like The Artist comes along and it certainly deserves all of the recognition and awards it has received. Watch it, enjoy it, and let it remind you of the magic of the movies because, believe it or not, it's still there. 

The Good:
seeing a movie about the past, filmed in the style of the past, with the camera effects, costumes, and sets of the past, and having the whole thing still feel new
The Better:
the magic of the past renewed, giving hope of a better future in the movie world
The Best:
the two leads, both unknowns, who fit their roles perfectly and work incredibly well together

Overall: 9.7/10


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At June 29, 2012 at 12:28 AM , Blogger Scott Lawlor said...

Nice review matey!!

I have been following Dujardin for a few years now, he is hilarious and has such a lot of charm and style.

Have you seen the OSS 117 films? I think you would love them

At June 29, 2012 at 12:40 AM , Blogger Eric Hillis said...

Hey this is Eric from The Movie Waffler.
I really like your site and was wondering if you fancy taking part in
a blogathon I'm running. It's based around the movies from the year of
your birth.
More details can be found here:

Cheers :)

At June 29, 2012 at 9:19 AM , Blogger Nick said...

@Scott, I have not seen the OSS films yet, but I plan on watching them now that I have seen how great he is.

@Eric, I think that'd be very fun. My year will be very tricky..
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Back to the Future Part II
Weekend at Bernie's
Dead Poet's Society

Where do I sign up?

At June 29, 2012 at 9:22 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Eric, I also added your blog to my "More Awesome" category on the right side bar. :).

Cheers as well lol.

At June 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM , Blogger Joe Giuliano said...

Hi, I think you perfectly summed up what makes The Artist work so well. I'm ashamed to admit that The Artist was the first "silent" film, I've seen, and it blew me away. Dujardin does such a remarkable job of letting his emotions resonate through his subtle glances, his expression while deep in thought, or especially through his bright smile. In recent years there's been debate over films who have won the Academy Award for Best Picture and for films that many thought were more deserving. In my opinion, there was little doubt which film was most deserving in 2011, The Artist WAS the Best Picture.

At June 29, 2012 at 10:53 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Thank you and I certainly agree. In the past couple of the years, the winner of Best Picture, in my opinion, was not deserving of the award (The King's Speech certainly was not worthy IMHO). I am glad to see that the Academy was able to award The Artist, however, and in a way, recognize its past.


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