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The Artist

January 22, 2012

The Artist (2011)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Actors: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman

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Synopsis: Silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) finds his career and life on the skids when sound is introduced to cinema in the late 1920s.

Review: Michel Hazanavicius’ much-trumpeted homage to silent cinema, The Artist, is a perfectly good – but not great – piece of work, whose main success is in making accessible a seemingly antiquated movie form to a mainstream audience, much like Amélie was a foreign film for people who don’t really dabble in “foreign” films. Hazanavicius employs all the obvious silent movie tropes – a charming matinée idol, an ingénue on the rise, a cute little dog – and peddles it all around the commonly-held myth that sound killed off the silent movie star. It’s a very eloquent film, and in remit is loosely similar to Todd Haynes’ 50s melodrama homage Far From Heaven although Haynes’ work has a seriousness and artistry that Hazanavicius’ more mainstream aspirations lack.

That said, Hazanavicius deserves credit for making his thesis on silent movies so digestible and entertaining, and there is a lot to enjoy in The Artist: from the clever use of films-within-films, and the ironic take on the amount of times characters read newspapers (one of the few ways that silent filmmakers could transmit information in their narratives) to the undoubtedly thrilling and visceral climax of Jean Dujardin’s hero finally making the move to sound. Although I feel Hazanavicius could have played more with the film’s overall palette and cinematography (silent cinema was always about more than just black and white photography), it’s commendable he was even able to bring this film into being in the first place, and that he has challenged contemporary audiences to reconfigure their spoon-fed senses for a trip down movie memory lane. (January 2012)

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