The Artist...a Robwrite Review

THE ARTIST (4.5 stars out of 5)

When was the last time anyone made a silent film? It was probably Mel Brooks' Silent Movie (1976). It's an oddity these days, to say the least, but this film has more to offer than just a gimmick. There will be many people who will not want to see this film because it is silent, and that's a pity, because they're missing what may be the best film of the year. The Artist is a work of art.

Written and directed by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, this film is the second ode to the silent era this year--Hugo was another tribute to the pre-talkie days--and it covers a similar theme of a cinema personality being left behind in the march of time. This film is a lively comedy, with excellent performances, despite almost no words being said.

The film begins in the late twenties, during the tail-end of the Silent Film Era and focuses on how the introduction of sound in films shook the industry to its core and altered the lives of many show business people. Not since the classic Singing in the Rain has a film so-well encapsulated the feel of both panic and excitement that overcame Hollywood when sound came along.

The story follows silent film star George Valentin (Played by French star Jean Dujardin); a sort of Douglas Fairbanks-like action star who rules the box office and revels in his success. George is forever accompanied by his faithful terrier Jack (Played by a dog named Uggie.) George prefers his public and his dog to his wife Doris (Penelope Ann Miller) who he has grown distant from.

When George has a chance-meeting with a struggling young actress named Peppy Miller (Played by Argentinian actress Berenice Bejo), she gets some unexpected press attention, which helps her start to get some film roles. When she auditions for a part in one of George's films, he insists she gets hired. Their brief scenes together lead to flirtations that Peppy would love to take a step further but married George is reluctant, despite how unhappy his marriage is. He is attracted to Peppy but won't take that final leap into infidelity. (But he is tempted.) However, his preferential treatment of her gives her career a boost, and starts Peppy on the road to success.

Then sound comes along in 1927 and the whole industry knows that it is the future, except for a few stubborn hold-outs, like George. When the studio he works for begins the transition to sound, George spitefully quits and decides to fund his own independent film. Meanwhile, Peppy is on a career roll, and is getting larger-and-larger parts in her films. We see her screen billing move higher up in the cast list with every film until she gets star billing.

While Peppy is becoming the new darling of sound films, George loses his shirt with his disastrous silent opus, simultaneously losing everything else in the stock market crash of '29. He finds himself a fading, forgotten man, while his former protege is the queen of Hollywood. Still unable to let go of his pride, he begins to sink into self-destructive behavior.

The Artist is clever in many ways. It makes entertaining use of occasional, unexpected sound effects, such as in a very funny dream sequence. The motif of speaking--or rather, of not speaking--is used on different levels. When George's ignored wife asks him why he won't speak, she is talking about their marriage, but it is a metaphor for his career. Why is he so stubborn about not speaking in movies if it will save his career?

Director Michel Hazanavicius uses imagery very well. Close-ups of people's mouths when they're talking illustrates George's discomfort with sound. At one point, when fallen star George is walking alone down the street, in the background we see a theater marquee that reads "the Lonely star". In another scene, even his shadow seems to walk out on him.

Stars Dujardin and Bejo are both likable and they have a good on-screen chemistry. The movie has a strong supporting cast. Aside from Penelope Ann Miller, we have John Goodman as the head of the studio; James Cromwell as George's loyal manservant; and Malcolm McDowell as a film extra.

This film is unique, clever and funny. It's also a nice tribute to an era of film that many people don't appreciate in modern times. Don't let the fact that the film is silent dissuade you from going to see it. This silent film deserves positive word-of-mouth.

Highly recommended.

Rob



More by this Author


Comments 18 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

I am anxiously waiting for this movie to get to my area....I am sure one of the benefits of living in New York is you get to see all the movies right away. I am thinking this movie is going to pick up a ton of Oscar nominations in a few weeks....with a chance to win Best Picture of the year. I am glad you are highly recommending the movie. I have actually seen Jean Dujardin in a few French spy spoof movies...and I always thought he was more like Jim Carrey than Tom Hanks....but the previews show that he has some acting skill as well as comedy skill. Thanks for the review...and now I am envious of you and the fact that you have already seen the movie. Voted up and awesome.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

This movie has intrigued me because it was different. It probably won't come to where I am but I'd like to wait and Redbox it anyway. Yeah, I was surprised about a silent in the era of big budgets and special efx but I think it's a welcome change. Thanks for the review.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Rob, So glad to see you really liked this movie, it has given me that push I need to go and see it in the cinema - I was in 2 minds to be honest but your hub has sold me on the idea now. Great hub.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I am looking forward to this movie and am interested in seeing it on the big screen-a rarity for me. Generally, I wait for the film to come out on DVD. But I am a silent movie fan and I love Douglas Fairbanks.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Bruce. Yeah, one of the great things about being in New York is that all the movies come here. Theater, too. We see all the great shows.

I would not be surprised at all if "the Artist" gets a best picture nod. It's definitely a quality film. And very unique.

I haven't seen Dujardin in anything before, but he is very good in this. If he's the French Jim Carey than this is his "Eternal Sunset of the Spotless Mind".

I hope you enjoy this film as much as i did.

Great, as always, to hear from you,

Rob


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Alecia; I was very curious about this film, too. It's too bad it won't be making the rounds in your area but you'll catch it sooner on later through some sort of media. It's worth the wait.

Thanks for stopping by,

Rob


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Jools; If you like classy, clever cinema, I would encourage you to see it. I really enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading,

Rob


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Flora; if you're a silent film lover, then this is a treat for you. It's not only a good silent film, its also a tribute to the silent movie days.

As a Douglas Fairbanks fan, you'll enjoy the scene where footage from a real Fairbanks film is used to simulate one of the character's silent movies.

I'm so happy to hear that you're going to treat yourself to a movie. It's about time. Enjoy your day at the theater.

Good to hear from you,

Rob


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Appreciate this review Rob. Been waiting for a flicker like this instead of all the overblown hype like with The War Horse for example. After working in the exhibitor biz so long when a films heavily advertised on TV- watch out!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Alastar; This film hasn't been getting a lot of hype or advertising airtime. Ironically, it's been a 'quiet' little film, that's an underdog in the Oscar race. I think its only showing in limited run, which is too bad because it deserves a wider release.

Great to hear from you,

Rob


CarltheCritic1291 profile image

CarltheCritic1291 4 years ago

Hey Rob, I hope you don't mind, I linked one of my latest Hubs to this review. It sounds like a great film and I can't wait to see it for myself. Keep up the great work, voted Up, Useful, Awesome, and Interesting :)


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Carl; Link away, I don't mind at all. I hope you like 'the Artist' as much as I did. I was impressed.

Good to hear from you,

Rob


Stevennix2001 profile image

Stevennix2001 4 years ago

Very impressive review, as I'm so jealous that you got to see this film way before I could. Shame on you. (Joke) I'm just kidding with ya. Great review, as I can't wait to see this movie myself, as I heard nothing but good things about it. And based on your review, I can see exactly why. Thanks for the heads up.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Steven; I do get to see all the good movies early because they always come to NY in limited release before opening nationwide. There are several 'arthouse' theaters here that specialize in obscure, artsy films rather than blockbusters.

This is a really good film. It won the Golden Globe for 'Best Film Comedy'. And Jean Dujardin won best actor in a comedy. I think you'll enjoy it when you see it,

Thanks for reading,

Rob


Xenonlit profile image

Xenonlit 4 years ago

Fortunately, we have a decent foreign film situation, so I look forward to this film. May have to travel to San Francisco to see it sooner, though.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Xenonlit; It's a good film. I don't know how long the trip to San Francisco is for you but if you're going to travel a long way for a film, it should be a good one like this.

Enjoy the film when you see it;

Rob


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

My wife and I saw this movie today....we both really enjoyed the movie...especially the performances of Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo. I agree with you about some of the scenes...I liked the sound nightmare...I thought that was done very well....and the dance scene at the end of the movie would have made Astaire proud. I enjoyed reading your review even more the second time.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Bruce; Glad you enjoyed it. I did, too. The performances were excellent. The nightmare scene was very clever and the final dance routine was very entertaining. The whole thing was very well done and the film deserved its Best Picture statue (Which I predicted.)

Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you liked the film.

Rob

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working