FlixChatter Review: The Artist

Every once in a while a film comes along that ends up becoming the ‘talk of the town’ so to speak. This year, that film is this The Artist. I’ve been waiting to see this since I saw the trailer last May. A silent black and white film in this day and age is obviously a novelty, but fortunately, that format alone isn’t simply a gimmick, French director Michel Hazanavicius offers us something more.

The story centers on a 1920s Hollywood silent film era star George Valentin, he started on as being at the top of his game, being adored by his fans the world over and Valentin loves every minute of it. Jean Dujardin plays Valentin with a sly smile and a twinkle in his eye, the quintessential debonair movie star with the world on his feet… little did he know.

Valentin encounters an up-and-coming starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in one of those ‘meet cute’ moment, and later Valentin ends up helping Miller catch a small break in one of his films. Sparks fly and it’s obvious they had a thing for each other, but circumstances drive them to go their separate ways. Before Valentin realizes — as he choose to ignore the obvious — a change is coming as talking pictures (talkies) is taking over. Pretty soon, Miller’s career in gaining ground whilst Valentin’s crumbling right from under him.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about the plot, in fact it’s quite predictable, but the inventive way it’s told is what makes this film so remarkable. Oh the joy of silent film, where the tiniest body movement and every little facial gesture like a raised eyebrow means everything. The right expressions can be as powerful as any dialogue and all the actors here did an outstanding job in conveying their intention and emotion without overdoing it.

The entire time I was watching this I was truly enthralled by everything happening on the screen. I was in awe of the gorgeous visuals which was unlike any other film I’ve seen in years, but on top of that, I also connected with the characters, with their joy, their despair. You’d think a film this stylish would be a victim of style over substance, but that’s not at all the case here, and for that reason alone this film is a triumph.

If this is playing in a cinema near you, I highly recommend you seeing this its big screen glory… the set pieces, the costumes, the cars, all the vintage ambiance will transport you to a bygone era that’s long departed but hopefully not forgotten. There’s also a few wonderful dance sequences by the two leads that were done in a long, uninterrupted take… it’d make even Gene Kelly stand up and cheer.

As for the performances, I thought this would be more of Dujardin’s vehicle, but I was pleasantly surprised that Bejo’s role is equally substantial. In fact, it’s nice to see that the female character isn’t the one that needed saving. I’d definitely be rooting for Dujardin and Bejo come Golden Globes and Oscar time, they are both electrifying! Dujardin has the panache and whimsy to carry off the charming movie star role, as well as the ability to evoke real pathos when things aren’t so rosy in Valentin’s world. Bejo is radiantly beautiful yet affable, you can’t help but like her character straight away. She really imbues so much heart into this film… her affection towards Valentin appears genuine and sincere.

I have to give props to the supporting cast as well. John Goodman is excellent as a Hollywood studio mogul, and James Cromwell is sympathetic as Valentin’s chauffeur. Penelope Ann Miller seems a rather odd choice as Valentin’s unhappy wife but I think she acquits herself well in the role.

Major kudos to Hazanavicius for creating a film that’s not only enchanting and delightful but something so refreshingly different from anything we’ve seen lately. This is the first 5 out of 5 rating I’ve given this year, and I really can’t find a single darn thing wrong with this film. One review I read said he didn’t want the film to end, and that when the lights came up, he didn’t feel like facing the world outside. I can certainly relate to that… The Artist is an exquisite blend of artistic visual style and engaging storytelling, a truly a magical time at the movies!

5 out of 5 reels

Have you seen this film? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

34 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Artist

  1. Great review! As this begins to open in more theaters, I think it is really going to take off. Even people who are a little scared off by the idea of silent and black & white end up loving this one when they actually give it a chance. And I’m glad that you got to give out at least one 5 reel rating this year!

    1. I was sold the second I saw the trailer even though I haven’t watched too many silent movies. I’m glad it lived up to my expectation and more. I really can’t knock any points off it.

  2. So glad you like the film. The award backlash has started to taint peoples perspectives. Seems people want to trash it just for the sake of trashing it. Nice to see that you were able to go into the film with an objective eye. Great review.

    1. I didn’t realize there’s a backlash, well I’m glad I kind of ignore that kind of stuff. In fact, I hadn’t really read hardly any reviews before going into this, just like I did before seeing Midnight in Paris which I also love.

  3. Ted S.

    That’s a great review Ruth, I don’t know if I’ll ever see it. I’m not much of a fan of silent films, besides some of the old Charlie Chaplin’s films I watched when I was younger, I’ve never been able to sit through any other silent film. In fact, I just don’t like black & white films in general, it somehow depresses the heck out of me.

    1. Totally understand Ted. I’m generally not a big fan of silent films but The Artist is quite different and the actors didn’t overact with their expressions. You find b&w films depressing? Well then you probably can’t sit through a lot of Gregory Peck old films then, ahah, except perhaps Twelve O’Clock High which I think you might like.

    1. Hi Diane, I think in this case it’s fine that the story is predictable, we watched it not to be surprised by the twist or anything like that, but watch how an otherwise simple story is told in such a unique, delightful way.

  4. Great review – I really want to see it now. Amazing that a silent film about silent films has been this successful today.

    Didn’t know John Goodman and James Cromwell were in the film. A bonus 🙂

    1. Thanks Fabo, yeah I’d think this was kind of a gamble for the filmmaker to do, but glad it paid off for them. Yeah both Goodman and Cromwell were good, I didn’t know they were in it until I saw them so it was a pleasant surprise.

  5. It saddens me that i probably won’t be seeing this anytime soon 😦 Anyways, good review. This one of the many films that have been saved for the end of the year that i would love to see but will probably have to wait.

    Btw, in case you’re till interested i am making progress of the Angelina post. I recently watched Gia and Girl Interrupted, and i rewatched the Good Shepard tonight. Gotta say making top actor performances posts are harder than they look

    1. Hi Julian, that’s too bad man, well as long as you see it at some point… I think you’ll appreciate it.

      That’s cool on Angie, are you gonna write a post on it then? Like my Gregory marathon, it’d be nice to see at least a mini review of what you’ve watched. I find it hard to do a top list of Greg’s performances also, as most of them are excellent.

  6. Matt Stewart

    Gosh, if only this movie would come to a theater near me!!! I have been wanting to see it for so long now…

    Good to hear your thoughts on the film, Ruth, and I am really glad you loved it. For me the only movie I have given full points is Hugo, it is such a special book and movie to me, but I am hoping The Artist will be up there as well.

    Nice review!

    1. Hi Matt, I hope you get to see this on the big screen. I like Hugo but it’s a bit slow in parts and Sacha is annoying so I had to knock points from it. The Artist however kept me engaged from start to finish, and what a finale!

    1. Woo hoo, high five matey! It’s sublime isn’t it? I just adore this one, I might buy the Blu-ray when it’s out.

      Glad to have you back matey!

  7. Woohoo, Ruth and company!

    Excellent, well thought out and executed review.

    From what I’ve read, The Artists screams for a full orchestra hidden in the pit or wings to supply the music. Just as organists and others supplied the background in the heyday of silent films!

    Well done!

  8. I’ve shared before that B&W movies were the majority of what I watched growing up, so seeing the novelty brought to the big screen is a major plus for me! I hope I get to see this soon.

    Glad to see it met up to your highly anticipated expectations! It seems that the perfect score is very well deserved!

  9. Impressive review Ruth!! and high rating too. I will see if I can find its DVD. As you know I am not really into B&W movies but I might give this a try. It also received a lot of nominations…I am intrigued.

    1. Thanks Nov. I know you’re not into bw films, but this one is worth making an exception to as it’s still quite modern compared to real bw silent films of that era.

  10. Wow you really loved this! This makes me even more excited to see it, although I’m waiting for the first week of January to check it out. Great review Ruth 🙂

  11. Great review, Ruth! I am glad to hear you liked this so much. My plan is to catch it sometime within the next week., especially as I don’t think I have seen a bad review yet. 🙂

  12. Pingback: Weekend Viewing Roundup: Margin Call and Another Earth

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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