The Artist review

:. Director: Michel Hazanavicius
:. Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo
:. Running Time: 1:40
:. Year: 2011
:. Country: France


The Artist is an exercise in style, a tour de force. In an age of digital cinema and 3-D, director Michel Hazanavicius signs an - almost - silent film that pays homage to the golden age of Hollywood (the 20s) and most particularly to Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

George Valentine is a box-office star … until the arrival of talkies in need of fresh faces, therefore plunging Valentine into oblivion, the actor having no place in this new cinema. Following a lengthy dry spell, the forgotten actor will ultimately find redemption in love and dance.

Shot in the U.S., some of its sets having actually been used for films of this era, The Artist fulfills its mission, offering popular entertainment with an outdated look. Hazanavicius filmed all the scenes in black and white, without sound, whether they involved Valentine's movie sequences, the behind-the-scenes or his actual life, text and music being here to support the pace of the drama.

Onscreen Jean Dujardin (OSS 117) and Berenice Bejo are having a communicative fun. Just like real studio actors from the 20's, they carry the legacy from their prestigious models, expressing their feelings through gestures, facial expressions and looks.

When talkies start invading the studios, sounds suddenly penetrate this silent world as can attest this great scene where Valentin hears for the first time, on film, the sound produced by a glass on a table. From that moment, the picture could have taken a different turn, integrating audio, but the director avoids this trap, continuing his story in silent mode. The script and the presence of Jean Dujardin carry the movie without ever making you miss a sound track.

The Artist would have been a stronger work, would it had embraced the standard running time of this era (1:15 to 1:20), suffering from a few lengthy sequences. But thanks to references to many major silent films, some great performances (beside Dujardin, John Goodman is another standout here) and a good script, The Artist manages to be modern, successfully finding its place among 21st century productions.

  Moland Fengkov

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