The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius 2011): France

Reviewed by Jesse Deason at the 2012 Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Artist is a remarkable endeavor at saluting classic Hollywood cinema of yesteryear. This brilliant film was done entirely in black and white and with virtually no dialogue. So how does a silent film receive ten Academy Award nominations including best picture best screenplay best actor best supporting actress and best director? It’s done very, very well.

Jean Dujardin plays the charming George Valentin. We are introduced to him at the premiere of his latest silent film “A Russian Affair” where he hams it up on stage to the chagrin of his co-star. Outside he meets Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) for the first time. Later Mr. Valentin is gracious with her and demands she doesn’t get fired with his enormous charm to the studio boss, Al Zimmer (John Goodman). She quickly becomes a rising star and a few years later when the studio announces their moving into “talkies” and marking the end of the silent movie age George Valentin, like so many others of his silent movie heyday is left behind. He stubbornly puts all his money into another silent movie not unlike his previous successes only to be upstaged on opening night with Peppy Miller’s first starring role in a “talkie” which is a huge hit that bankrupts not only his film but his personal finances as well. His wife leaves him, and if not for his faithful dog and loyal valet, Clifton (James Cromwell).

Remember all this is going on without any voices only the musical score and expressiveness of our actors. Speaking of expressiveness, Jean Dujardin has without a doubt one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen. His performance is nothing short of brilliant. Berenice Bejo’s chemestry with him on film is electric. As amazing as these performances are  the director (Michael Hazanavicius) deserves so much credit. To take on this endeavor is incredibly brave and to be able to do so with this amount of jaw dropping skill and obvious talent is truly worth of praise and every accolade this industry can bestow.

For any film lover this is a MUST SEE! It simply cannot be missed. You’ll be given an experience unlike I’m sure any you’ve probably ever had at the movies. When a story is told well you can forget details like subtitles if its a foreign language quite easily. This is one of those examples but done in a way I’ve yet to have experienced here to date. An excellent film we’ll no doubt be talking about for years and years to come.

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