Should I Watch..? 'The Artist'

Updated on May 22, 2019
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Film's poster
Film's poster | Source

What's the big deal?

The Artist is a French comedy drama film released in 2011 and was written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius. The film is deliberately made in a style similar to the classic silent movies of the 1920's and 30's and follows the volatile relationship between an experienced actor and the beautiful starlet he falls for as Hollywood moves from silent cinema to "talkies". The film stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo with supporting turns from John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle and the highly talented canine actor Uggie. The film received a lot of love from critics and it earned a total of five Academy Awards from ten nominations as well as many other awards across the world. It was the first Best Film winner in black-and-white since 1960's The Apartment and the first silent film to win since the very first Oscars in 1927. Despite a initially limited run in cinemas, the film still went on to earn more than $133 million worldwide.

Unmissable

5 stars for The Artist

What's it about?

In Hollywood in 1927, silent film icon George Valentin is posing for photos outside the premier of his latest film whilst surrounded by his adoring public. Suddenly, a young woman called Peppy Miller falls from the crowd into Valentin who laughs the accident off but is instantly smitten. After spotting Peppy at an audition for dancers, Valentin insists that she is cast opposite him in his next movie despite the wishes of studio boss, Al Zimmer. With a little guidance from Valentin who draws a beauty spot on her face which becomes her trademark, Peppy finds herself quickly becoming the queen of Hollywood.

However, Valentin is about to find his own world fall apart. His wife Doris is growing increasingly paranoid about his relationship with Peppy while Zimmer announces that he will no longer produce silent movies as "talkies" become increasingly popular. As Valentin's career crashes down around him, he is taken aback when his latest film is trumped by Peppy's own movie - a revelation that brings him to the brink of despair...

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Jean Dujardin
George Valentin
Bérénice Bejo
Peppy Miller
John Goodman
Al Zimmer
James Cromwell
Clifton
Missi Pyle
Constance
Penelope Ann Miller
Doris Valentin
Uggie
Jack

Technical Info

Director
Michel Hazanavicius
Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius
Running Time
100 minutes
Release Date (UK)
30th December, 2011
Rating
PG
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Academy Awards
Best Film, Best Actor (Dujardin), Best Director, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score
Academy Award Nominations
Best Supporting Actress (Bejo), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction
Dujardin (left) and Bejo (right) perfectly encapsulate the inherent glamour and style of pre-talkie movie stars and lend the film a startling credence.
Dujardin (left) and Bejo (right) perfectly encapsulate the inherent glamour and style of pre-talkie movie stars and lend the film a startling credence. | Source

What's to like?

I'm struggling to think of any film with as much charm and good humour as The Artist which squeezes in so much charisma that George Clooney gets jealous. The film isn't just a recreation of silent movies but a love letter to that style of cinema. The film looks every inch like an authentic relic from the era (if you ignore the high definition) and makes the film feel very different from anything else made for a long time. The advantage of shooting a mostly silent film is that you can cast actors from anywhere based on looks alone and Dujardin is every inch the screen idol, mimicking the likes of Clark Gable with precision and grace. Bejo, the wife of director Hazanavicius, also looks fabulous on the screen while Goodman easily inhabits the role of the traditional studio boss, complete with fat cigar permanently present in his mouth.

Narratively, the film isn't too far removed from the likes of A Star Is Born showing the dynamic between two lovers whose careers are moving in different directions. But the film feels more light-hearted than any of those adaptations, thanks in no small part to Uggie. The Parsons Russell Terrier easily steals the show in every scene he's in, performing his role in such a way that he deserves to be recognised alongside his human co-stars. He brings such a level of joy to the film that I can't think of any other animal in any film contributing as much as Uggie does here. It's just a delight and a novelty to watch and remains as unique as it did at the time.

Fun Facts

  • The film was shot at 22 frames per second (FPS) as opposed to the industry standard of 24 frames. Most silent films were shoot at a rate between 14-24 FPS to make the action appear to be faster than it actually was. When sound came to be incorporated in film-making, the FPS rate was switched to 24 to make editing sound easier.
  • The role of Valentin is supposedly based on two real-life actors who struggled with the transition to "talkies", Douglas Fairbanks and John Gilbert. Both men made the names in silent swashbuckler movies and both had died prematurely before the end of the 30's. As Valentin, Dujardin became the first French actor to win the Best Actor movie.
  • According to Dujardin, the movie was filmed in just 35 days. However, rehearsals for the final dance scene alone took five months and took place in the same studio that Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly rehearsed in for Singin' In The Rain in 1952.

What's not to like?

However, the film is not all sunshine and rainbows and not just because of its monochrome appearance. The Artist isn't afraid to show us the darker side of despair when Valentin's career hits the skids. From the disturbing dream sequence (one of only two scenes in the film to use sound) to the grim and somewhat terrifying fire, the film makes it apparent that behind the glamour of Hollywood that there are often great personal costs and sacrifices to be made. Arguably, this isn't a shock - the same probably applies to many stars' private lives today - but it's certainly a jolt to the system after you've finished laughing at Jack the dog sharing the breakfast table with his adoring master.

Obviously, the film has next to no dialogue and also restricts the number of title cards which might make following the narrative a little tricky for viewers not used to them. But you can almost fill in the blanks yourself due to the performances of the cast who revive the often-forgotten art of facial expression. The soundtrack is also full of twinkly pianos as well as pieces taken from other films which might quickly grate on your nerves after a while or take you out of the picture if you recognise any other musical pieces. But if it does then I politely suggest you get out more.

Uggie, playing Jack the dog, is a sheer delight and helps make the fun even more enjoyable.
Uggie, playing Jack the dog, is a sheer delight and helps make the fun even more enjoyable. | Source

Should I watch it?

It might not be to everybody's tastes but The Artist is a brilliantly produced, wonderfully performed and charming film that can't help but put a smile on your face. Dujardin does his career a power of good (although it hasn't exactly opened Hollywood's doors for him) in a film that is simply fun to watch. It's well thought-out, surprisingly, different and everything you might want from a film. C'est magnifique!

Great For: Francophiles, film historians, dog lovers, anyone looking for something different

Not So Great For: black-and-white snobs, the unimaginative

What else should I watch?

Although The Artist might be unusual for being in black-and-white, it is far from the only modern movie to use this format. Most famously, Sin City and its sequel A Dame To Kill For uses black-and-white to imitate its graphic novel origins with occasional flashes of colour as does Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, although Robert Rodriguez's ultra-violent comic adaptation is just as difficult to watch but for very different reasons. The makers of The Good German took things even further, shooting in monochrome using lens and other equipment from the 1940's to try and achieve a genuine look of film noir. No doubt Woody Allen fans would also recommend Manhattan as well although I can't claim to have watched it so far.

Silent movies, obviously, have become more of a fad these days but before The Jazz Singer in 1927, silent films produced some of cinema's all-time classic films. From the pomp and ceremony of Metropolis to the creeping horror of films like Nosferatu and M, film-makers seemed more imaginative and inventive back then to get their vision on screen without using the lazy CG techniques used today. Each of these films seemed to become huge epics (well, maybe not Nosferatu!) with vast casts and a genuine artistic flair. If you take anything away from these articles I write then I hope you become more receptive to films outside the norm like silent movies and dusty monochrome classics. Try them out.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Benjamin Cox

    Soap Box

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)