The Artist (2011)

Now whenever Pop-Pop says that “they don’t make films like they used to”, you can prove his ass wrong.

The story revolves around a fictional silent movie star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who finds himself on the downside of his career fading with the advent of talking movie. He falls in love with Peppy Miller, a young extra (Bérénice Bejo) who soon begins to rise to movie stardom.

Having a silent-film in the year 2011 be your front-runner for Best Picture seems very strange since the silent films are the total opposite of what we watch in films now. I can’t believe people actually went along with this idea/gimmick considering barely anybody would actually go out and give money to a film like this other than film nerds and old farts, but still, it’s a great idea if over-hyped a bit too much.

The film may take a bit of getting used to considering everything’s silent, everything’s in black-and-white, it stars two French people I myself and many others probably haven’t heard of until now, it’s not shot in wide-screen, and when they aren’t giving you little title-screens, half of the time you’re reading the lips of these characters. This may seem like a total pain in the ass right from the start but somehow writer/director Michel Hazanavicius makes it all work. Hazanavicius captures the whole feel and look of the silent film era with the whimsy, charm, and overall giddiness that took over these films and the happy spirit this film gives off is almost contagious enough to bring a smile onto your face, as it did to mine.

We don’t get to hear what any of these people are saying, and we barely even find out what it is too but the way we watch the body language of these characters and the type of emotions they can draw from us makes us really feel what was so special about these films in the first place.  I think Hazanavicius’ other great addition to this film was that he is able to do with little subtelty but still able to make us feel emotions that we would feel even in a film that almost spells out everything for us.

But back to the way Hazanavicius captures this time period and makes this gimmick work perfectly. You get a real sense that you’re watching a flick that is not just an homage to the early days of cinema but also a film that could have easily been made as one of the last silent films in the 1930’s when “Talkies” started taking over completley. There are all of these different shots taken from other silent films of the era but they feel natural to the story and keep you in the mind-set of just how much the times were changing despite how depressing it may have been during the 30’s. I think the main reason why this film works so well is because of it’s sweeping score that is definitely one of the best I have heard in a long time because it actually feels like it belongs and isn’t just used for background music. It’s nice and easy on the ears but it also fits perfectly with the tone when the plot starts to shift into some very sad territory, even though that part of this flick may feel a bit like a parody.

However, the film does hit a big blockade in the middle of the flick where Valentin starts to lose his mind when he can’t change with the times. This would have been okay if the film just focused on it a tad bit but to be honest, the film really does lag when it starts to focus on this more and more without anything new or simply fresh for us to keep our minds busy. It was a bit of a bummer considering this film was really entertaining me but right at about this point I was caught checking out my watch a couple of times.

Another problem with this film is that I don’t necessarily think that it’s the one film that everybody is stating that it is. Going into this flick my expectations were incredibly high considering how much Oscar talk it’s been getting but other than the fact that it’s a cute little gimmick that is done well I must say, I still couldn’t help but think that there was just something that didn’t really do much for me considering I couldn’t feel anything for this story it’s characters but I was at least enjoying myself. I felt like I was watching one of those history lessons on The History Channel but instead of having little interviews from people of the time and then flipping back-and-forth between re-enactments, it was just one, long lesson with some really good-looking people. I think my expectations going into this film is what kind of brought it down for me but none the less, it was still a film that didn’t really change my way of living like everybody claimed it to be.

The real reason why this film is so incredibly charming though is because of its lead performance from Jean Dujardin as George Valentin. The guy hams it up just about every time he is up on screen but he feels like a perfect fit for a character who can’t seem to get out of a certain period of time but you still feel something for. The guy’s smile is infectious and it also helps that he looks exactly like a star from the silent film days. It’s crazy how the guy is the front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar this year, even though his performance is all based on his physicality and he doesn’t even say anything throughout the whole flick (except for one part). Dujardin is a lot of fun to watch here and is one of the main reasons why people should check this flick out.

Bérénice Bejo is also a lot of fun as Peppy Miller. Bejo is gorgeous, charming, and just seems like a total sweetheart and the chemistry her and Dujardin have together feels real and electric even though we never hear them actually speak to each other. It’s a different type of love story that we usually see nowadays, and actually feels like one of those nice, sweet, and simple romances we would see way back in the day. There are also plenty of other peeps in this cast as well such as John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Missi Pyle among others.

Consensus: The Artist is not the one film of 2011 that will change your life, but it does feature a lot of fun with its perfect direction, great lead performances, and overall delighting and charming feel that will take you back in time to the golden days of silent films.



  1. Gosh, I can’t wait to see this one – if it ever makes it to NZ. It looks wonderful, and I’m excited about it because of all the Oscar talk it is getting. But I don’t want to get my expectations too high! Nice review.

  2. I just saw the film earlier today and my review is already posted in draft form for its official release tomorrow. I really liked it. It’s entertaining and enjoyable. I think it’s the front-runner to win the Best Picture Oscar although I think The Tree of Life should win.

  3. As I stated in my review–I was not charmed as most people were with The Artist. It is an okay film–that if filmed with sound–would not be getting so much attention. NIce review!

  4. I loved it a lot more than you did. Bejo and director Hazanavicius are together in real life and have children. Dujardin and Bejo made a silly but fun French spy movie together a few years back and that’s worth seeing, just to hear them talking! An English subtitled version is available, as it is in French.

  5. I think the point of the film was to keep things simple. I enjoyed it a lot. The story would definitely not have worked if it was shot in sound, but I think that was the point. Most silent films back in the day were quite simple and would be incredibly awful of shot in sound, storywise, I mean.

    The lips weren’t that hard for me to read, which really surprised me. The only time I had difficulty was when the cop says something to Dujardin’s character when he’s outside that tuxedo shop. When the movie comes out, I’m buying it and freaking watching that part to see if I missed something, lol.

    I’d have to disagree with your comment about where you felt the movie slowed down. For some reason I felt pretty engaged at that point. I was just so curious how everything was going to pan out.

    I definitely went into this movie with high expectations too, but not because I read a lot of buzz about it. I just knew I wanted to see it pretty badly the minute I saw the trailer for it when I was watching My Week with Marilyn. Something about the trailer caught me and when the trailer said something about it being a silent film I totally had a “wtf” moment and suddenly felt the need to go see it. I’m glad I did too.

    Great review!

  6. This was probably one of my favorite films of 2011. I reviewed this about a month ago and everyone that I spoke to at the screening I went to seemed to enjoy it as well. Good review.

  7. I love this movie. The charm and imagination alone puts it at the top. People saying “If filmed with sound it wouldn’t be a great film” obviously didn’t get the point of the movie at all. I suggest rewatching it

  8. Good review, and you and I were pretty much in sync.

    One thing I really did enjoy was the selective use of sound, such as when George has the nightmare about the talkies and he starts to hear what things really sound like.

  9. Glad you finally got to see this Dan. Indeed, not a life-changing movie but then, how often do we get one of those? This is delightful from beginning to end and it really does have it all, from excellent performances to sweet highs and touching lows, laughs and moments that will pull on the heartstring a bit. I loved this movie and can’t wait to see it again!

  10. I am SO glad that this movie was made, it is great to see the old magic of cinema being brought back alive. Still need to catch a viewing for myself, though…

    Good review Dan!

  11. Great review of a very enjoyable movie. Bérénice Bejo really was enchanting to watch, with those beautiful eyes. The movie felt similar to something like Singing in the Rain (it deals with the same subject matter of course, but looks at it from the silent actor perspective). Sweet little movie.

  12. Nice work, Dan. I loved this movie, and there’s no doubt that it was exceptionally well made. I will agree that it was a little hard to watch as Valentin drifted toward rock bottom, but I thought it rebounded brilliantly at the end. Definitely worthy of its multiple awards (with more to come!).

  13. “I can’t believe people actually went along with this idea/gimmick considering barely anybody would actually go out and give money to a film like this other than film nerds and old farts”

    LOL! And I fall into both categories so I win twice!! 😀

    Glad you at least recognize it as a good film Dan, sorry you didnt connect with it more. That’s the type of thing that varies from person to person and it happens to me all the time.

    Personally, I’ve never before in my life wished that I could dance. And I did here.

  14. It really makes me smile to see more people seeing and enjoying this film. I really enjoyed it. While I do think in the middle there was a bit of a slump in pacing, I didn’t think it was too bad of a change of pace.

    Got to give it to Jean Dujardin. It felt like he was from the era of silent films.

  15. I’m excited to see this film. You’re right- its been getting so much hype, its hard for me to believe I’ll love it THAT much!

  16. Nice review.

    I share your a little of your reticence over the amount of praise that the film has garnered but it is very entertaining and intelligently made. Its also very original and in a year when we got Transformers and Sucker Punch it was a welcome relief. Dujardin and Bejo really caught my eye and I hope they go on to bigger things. I really loved how the atmosphere of the time was captured.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s