The Artist

The Artist

In Theatres: 
Nov 25, 2011
Running Time: 
1 Hour, 40 Minutes

Stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo rehearsed their dance number inside Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds' studio.

Why do we watch movies? What is it that keeps audiences spending dollar after dollar, week after week? Maybe it's the distraction from the reality of our stressful lives. Or possibly to see an unlikely hero beat the bad guy and save the girl. For a majority of audiences, it could be a number of these excuses. Now, let's think about why movies are made. Is it to distract us? To serve expected turn after expected turn? No. Movies are made to connect us to the past, present and future of not only cinema, but ourselves. To make us smile, to make us laugh, to charm us into submission. Movies are made to cement their own place in, not only history, but our minds. To remind us never to forget our favorite moments. I will never forget The Artist. 

In 1927 Hollywood, a relaxed George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) stands behind a giant theater screen, awaiting the credits reel to cue the real entertainment. Once his film ends, the crowd bursts into an uproar. Applause not being a stranger to Valentin, he steps out and shows the crowd why he is Hollywood's biggest face. In a time of silent films, there is no name more recognizable than that of George Valentin. Almost always alongside his playful dog, Valentin was on top of the world with nowhere to go but up. That is, until he met Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). After making a charming introduction to Hollywood, Peppy has set out to prove she is capable of handling any role given to her. Between a dashing gentleman who loves to act and listen and an enchanting woman with a knack for dancing as fast as she talks, it's easy to see the instant connection between George and Peppy. Suddenly, Hollywood introduces "talkies": Films that feature actual voices, instead of silence. George is stunned at how anyone would want to change that which isn't broken and decides to have nothing to do with the advancement, simply sticking with silent pictures. Peppy, however, is eager to be heard by the entire world. With Peppy as the new face of Hollywood, George finds himself out of the spotlight that fit him so perfectly. What is a man to do without his passion, his love or his voice?

It's absolutely stunning to be able to watch something like The Artist in a theater. It brings you back to a time when movies were embraced with the perfect attitude. The times when charisma wasn't a necessity but a given qualification. When movies could take your breath away without given you any of theirs. And the best thing going for The Artist, besides the direction, the score and the cast, is its' charm. Charming is probably the easiest word to describe The Artist. Hollywood A-listers mimicking facial expressions from a canine just to entertain you, an unknown beauty imagining her arm to be that of a an irresistable lover. It's the little things that really draw you into these characters and who they are. You don't have to be a fan of silent films to catch yourself handing over smiles to this film at a rapid rate. Just a fan of film in general. 

I must admit it's a little worrying how easily I was swept up by the soundtrack to The Artist. It's truly a work of art that is very rarely duplicated in the success of carrying a films' tone. Composer Ludovic Bource serves up a score that on its' own could tell the story of the rise and fall of George Valentin. Very few scores can capture the various emotions given on screen; Happy, worrysome, fearful, lovestruck, heartbroken. In a way, Bource captured the journey of life on recording. He just happened to sell it to Director Michel Hazanavicius. It is because of the complete genius of this score that the audience will forget that they are watching a silent film. But it's not the score alone that enhances the overall experience. 

Hazanavicius has crafted an incredible ensemble to represent his characters. John Goodman as the rough on the outside movie producer, Al Zimmer. The incredible James Cromwell as Valentin's personal friend and butler, Clifton. Even Malcolm McDowell's blink-and-you'll-miss-it role was effective. The real treat to this cast was how they all had their own seperate qualities that make The Artist such a delight to watch. The connection between George and Peppy is a large part of the charm, but each character and their interactions with one another is what makes the film flow at such a wonderful pace. That's not to say the personality and charisma of George Valentin isn't enough to carry a motion picture. Hell, I'm already waiting for the next silent motion picture starring the daring adventurer and his canine companion. Jean Dujardin gives an incredible performance that was well deserving of the Golden Globe he received for the same performance. If nothing else, his personification of a man who lost everything he was is worth the ticket price alone. Thankfully, The Artist gives you more than that. So much more. 

The Artist is a revelation. A truly inspired work of art that effectively captures what movies are supposed to be and how movies are intended to affect audiences. An incredible cast, a wonderfully charismatic score and beautiful, inspired direction make The Artist not just one of the best films of the past few years, but what a film is intended to be: A personal experience. 

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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