Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo
November 25, 2011
The Weinstein Company
1 hour 40 minutes
NOTE: I ORIGINALLY SAW THIS AT THE PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL AND THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON OCTOBER 29, 2011
Many moviegoers in this day in age probably haven't seen an actual silent movie, excluding the Mel Brooks film ironically titled 'Silent Movie.' People might not even know what silent movies are anymore, other than people who lived in the 30s through the 70s. However that didn't stop French director Michel Hazanavicius from making 'The Artist.' 'The Artist' revolves around a silent movie actor who goes from top of the universe to bottom of the pits as the world goes through the era of movies with sound and the 1929 Stock Market Crash. This film has generated a lot of buzz ever since its debut at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where lead actor Jean Dujardin won the award for Best Actor, and his dog sidekick Uggy won the "Palm Dog Award," the award for the best pet featured in a movie playing at the festival. American audiences probably wouldn't know who the lead French actors are, so that's why American talent such as John Goodman and James Cromwell are along for this magical ride.
This movie can strongly be compared to the classic Gene Kelly musical ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ because of its subject matter and the charismatic actor taking the lead. If you enjoyed 'Singin in the Rain' (how could you not?) or are just a plain movie lover in general, you will love 'The Artist.' The only difference between the two films, aside from the six decade span between the two films’ releases, is that this movie is more emotional and shocking at some points. Think of it this way: if the second half of ‘Singin in the Rain’ had Don Lockwood falling into a deep and heartfelt depression and Cathy Seldom being a talkie success, you have ‘The Artist.’ Nevertheless, this movie is still spectacular. This may be a bit of a push, but I'll take my chances: 'The Artist' is more than just one of 2011's best films; it may just be the 'Singin in the Rain' of this generation!
French actor Jean Dujardin won Best Actor at Cannes this past summer, and he unquestionably deserves all of the awards buzz he will be getting soon. Dujardin knows how to ramp up the comedy when needed and he knows how to bring the emotion in the drama section of the film. There is a sense of a young Gene Kelly shown throughout the film, from his looks to the way he acts out to everything, even getting an awesome tap dance thrown in at parts. If his performance isn't even considered for an Academy Award nomination, I will be very shocked. Another great performance in the movie doesn’t even come from a human. Believe it or not, if animals could as well be nominated for Best Supporting Actor a the Academy Awards, then the dog in this movie, Uggy, should be nominated, with a strong chance of even winning!
This dog makes its presence clear and centered the moment we are introduced to him at the beginning of the movie, doing some of the most amazing dog tricks ever put on screen. Uggy the dog, as amazing as this sounds, may absolutely me the single best character in 'The Artist,' and it's ironic because a dog, who cannot talk like you and me, is the best character in a silent movie! Uggy the dog to Dujardin's George Valentin is what Donald O'Conner's Cosmo Brown was to Gene Kelly's Don Lockwood. They are the best match of anybody or anything in any movie to come out this year. The rest of the cast was phenomenal, ranging from Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller to John Goodman as Al Zimmer. It's amazing how fantastic these actors are with their physical actions and expressions, and they're not even bloody talking! That is something to be proud of.
What's so special about this movie is, not just that it was shot in black and white and is silent, but director Michel Hazanavicius was so certain on his vision that the movie was shot and released in a 4:3 ratio, aka Full Screen! Before the 1960s, movie were usually shot on a full frame camera, and movie theaters had these screens rather than the wide screens we all have come to know. It may not be a technical breakthrough or anything like that, but just seeing this film this way will make you feel like a moviegoer in the 1920s when sound was created from an orchestra in a movie theater. A title card, which means that cards that contain lines from a film's script pop up on the screen, only add to the feel of really watching a silent movie from the 20s. Movies have really evolved over the past century, but it is still cool to see movies made in a way that feels old and strange, yet something that is made out of magic.
Director Michel Hazanavicius has crafted a gem of a movie that should be watched for generations to come. This is the movie for fans of silent film actors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and also the movie for fans of film to check out. The performances are sublime, the film looks authentic and old, and it really captures the feel of what a movie should be like. You will laugh and you will just stare in awe throughout the 100 minutes this film lasts. You may just be hearing score for 95% of the film, (there is talking during two scenes) but the music tells a sweet and sometimes shocking story that keeps you involved throughout. The movie may be slow during one or two scenes, but everything else keeps you emotionally involved and entertained for the time it lasts. For any cinephile in the world who for some reason has been disappointed with recent movie releases, this is definitely THE movie to check out this fall. This isn't officially coming out until November 25, but 'The Artist' is absolutely worth your time and your money and should be one of the biggest hits of the fall. For the die-hard movie lovers or "artists" in all of us, check out 'The Artist,' and you will have one hell of an awesome experience. Au revoir!