29 August 2012

Movie Review: The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius

Title: The Artist
Director(s): Michel Hazanavicius
Genre(s): Romance, Comedy, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Release Date (USA): January 20, 2012

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is quite possibly the most famous silent movie star of the late 1920’s. Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is a talented young dancer hoping to break in on the Hollywood scene. One day, in an incredible twist of fate, Valentin and Miller meet on set. Inevitably, sparks fly between the two as they create magic on screen. Their paths cross over the next several years, until the arrival of the “talkies” revolutionizes the film industry, sending their careers in completely opposite directions.

There was a lot of talk about The Artist prior to its release. Critics raved about it. It swept the Oscars winning a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Director and the crème de la crème—Best Picture. In an interesting side note, it’s the only silent film to take home the award for Best Picture in Oscar history, like ever. So with all the hype, was the movie even worth it? There’s only one answer to that question… YES.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a silent film. I have and I have to say, they are a lost art. There’s something so beautiful about their way of storytelling—it’s poignant and meaningful, much more so than many of the movies produced today. And don’t let the “silent” part fool you. “Silent” is sort of a misnomer because it’s not like these movies are without sound. There are sound effects that echo strategically behind a masterfully crafted score. It’s these sound effects and music that set the mood for the audience, helping to tell a huge part of the story. Being filmed in classic silent film fashion, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Hazanavicius has kept the true feel of that bygone era, allowing the viewer to really experience the film as it should be experienced. What we’re given is a collection of whimsical moments that rely on showing instead of telling. It becomes very clear that showing is one of Hazanavicius’ strongest suits.

When you have a silent film, I think the most important thing of all is creating chemistry. Without chemistry between the actors, you have nothing but jumble of random events. The chemistry that Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo share on screen is undeniably strong, perhaps because of their work together on prior films. Dujardin exudes total charm and charisma, and Bejo, nothing but grace and enthusiasm. They move together with so much skill and flair, I could hardly pry my eyes away from the screen. They are completely mesmerizing. And with cameos by John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller, you’re hard pressed to find a more talented cast of characters. But the irrefutable scene stealer of this movie is Valentin’s precious pooch, Jack (aka Uggie). Seriously. Who can resist this face?

Yes. I do mean to say, the dog stole the show. But what I find most impressive about this film was the way it made me feel. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much when I’ve watched a movie before. The Artist was compelling, endearing, funny, sad and wistful. It made me hope, laugh, smile and cry. Like it or not, this film latches on to your heartstrings and won’t let go. There is nothing you can do but surrender yourself to its magic and be genuinely happy that you’re along for the ride. Michel Hazanavicius has created something truly extraordinary, and like the silent movies of the past, something that is sure to become a classic for all time.

Summary Prognosis
Michel Hazanavicius has not only nailed it, he’s done silent films a great service with this masterpiece. I find it incredibly amazing that one film can say so much without really saying anything at all. Let me be candid with you, if I may. This. Film. Did. Not. Need. Words. In all my enthusiasm for entertainment, I rarely classify any movie as perfect, but The Artist was in every sense of the word, sheer perfection. It is, to date, the most joyful film I’ve ever had the pleasure to see.

Rating: ★★★★★

Watch It: Amazon  | Best Buy
Discuss It: IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
View the Trailer:

1 comment:

  1. Wow, the most joyful film you've ever seen? Your post definitely makes me want to watch it.

    I agree, silent films are a lost art. And that puppy is soooo cute! He was on the red carpet at the Oscars :)


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