The Artist

2011 | 100 minutes | Rated PG-13

There is an old saying that “Silence is golden.” A decade ago, this saying proved true as a nearly silent, black and white, French produced film struck gold winning many awards world wide. “The Artist” was directed by Michel Hazanavicius, and starred Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, along with such well known American actors as John Goodman and James Cromwell. It won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival, three Golden Globes, seven BAFTAs, five Academy Awards, and six Cesar Awards.

The movie begins in Hollywood in 1927. Dujardin exudes charm as silent film star George Valentin. Valentin is the top earning box office draw for a studio run by John Goodman’s character. During a movie premier, he offends his female co-star by hamming it up for his audience with his adorable canine companion while practically ignoring her. Outside, a young lady, played by Bejo, drops her purse. While stooping to pick it up, she accidentally bumps into Valentin.

Valentin poses for some photos with the young lady. The pictures make the front page of “Variety” with the headline “Who’s that Girl?” The young lady, Peppy Miller, is encouraged by the experience to try out as an extra in one of Valentin’s films. Valentin is taken with the young Miller and makes sure that she gets a part.

George offers the young Miller some advice. Audiences soon fall in love with her and she is on her way to stardom. One day, Goodman’s character has something to show George. It is a sound test for a new type of motion picture. Valentin is not impressed and balks at the new technology. The studio head insists that this is the way of the future and tells him that the studio is only going to produce “talkies” from now on. George wants no part of it and leaves the studio to make his own movies.

Peppy hits it big and becomes a huge success. Unfortunately, Goodman’s character was right. Valentin becomes more and more depressed as his career goes downhill.

“The Artist” is an excellent film. It showcases the effect that emerging technologies can have on the livelihoods of those who have jobs associated with them as careers rise and fall. The movie is beautifully shot and the actors, while for the most part silent, are all quite charming and very expressive. Not only are the human actors excellent, the dog also gives a great performance. 

Shot on location in and around the Los Angeles area, “The Artist” has a very authentic look and feel of “Hollywood’s Golden Age” of the late 20’s and early 30’s. All of the cars and popular music used in the movie are of the period. The director, cast, and cinematographer have also done a remarkable job of recreating the pacing, look, and feel of an old silent movie.

“The Artist” is rated PG-13 for a crude gesture and a few disturbing images. It should be fine for most people. I rate it four-and-a-half out of five film reels.

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