The Artist (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Artist</strong> (2011)

(On-demand video, July 2012) The Artist’s success at the 2012 Oscars may, at first, have seemed like a fluke: A silent film featuring French lead actors and director?  What would be the odds?  But it doesn’t take a long look at the actual movie to understand why Hollywood would embrace the film so enthusiastically.  It is, after all, a celebration of one of cinema’s golden age, a painstaking recreation of a time best remembered through a haze of nostalgia.  Set during the last years of silent film, The Artist really doesn’t trouble itself with a complicated plot: It’s a straight fall-from-grace tragedy for the protagonist, mirrored by the rise of another type of performer.  The subplots and plot beats are all familiar, but they’re not the reason to see the film.  Jean Dujardin makes for an exceptionally capable lead (with Bérénice Bejo as a capable foil) , but The Artist’s greatest asset is the way director Michel Hazanavicius apes and recreates the style of silent cinema in all of its jittery glory, occasional dialogue cards making intelligible what the over-acting can’t establish.  By going back to the old, The Artist feels like something new, or at least something sufficiently different from routine that it’s hard not to be charmed.  It has a few lengths (especially in the dog-days of the protagonist’s fall on hard times) but it’s a crowd-charmer throughout, and it ends as it should –on a very high note.  No wonder that Hollywood propelled it to the top of the Academy Awards—along with Hugo, which also featured a mixture of French exoticism and early movie-making nostalgia. The Artist is that kind of film-for-film-lovers, designed to reward cinephiles for doing nothing more than watching a lot of movies.  It’s a curio, but a pleasant one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *