The Artist (2011)

The Artist (2011)
  • Time: 100 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Michel Hazanavicius
  • Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman


Outside a movie premiere, enthusiastic fan Peppy Miller literally bumps into the swashbuckling hero of the silent film, George Valentin. The star reacts graciously and Peppy plants a kiss on his cheek as they are surrounded by photographers. The headlines demand: “Who’s That Girl?” and Peppy is inspired to audition for a dancing bit-part at the studio. However as Peppy slowly rises through the industry, the introduction of talking-pictures turns Valentin’s world upside-down.


  • Set at the end of the 1920’s George Valentin is one of the top silent movie actors working in Hollywood and he enjoys the attention and success which this brings him. He accidentally bumps into aspiring actress Peppy Miller who idolises George and they begin to work together. He sees something in her, he knows she is talented but she needs to stand out from the crowd. And with George’s help she does just this.

    However, as Peppy gets more work and starts to become successful George has peaked in his career and as studio bosses stop the silent movie productions and move to the new ‘talkies’ he finds himself out of work. As he falls out of favour but Peppy is a sensation in the new medium and she becomes the biggest star in Hollywood.

    We see George losing his wife, his home and dignity. However, always by his side is his dog and butler Clifton (Cromwell). At times George’s canine companion is a scene stealer but he is magnificent to watch and brings humour even in unlikely scenes and you can’t help but smile.

    Shot in black and white and in 1:33 aspect ratio the film is true to the early days of cinema. From the wonderful opening credits through to the brilliant score which complements the story. Hazaanvicius has really captured the essence of the silent movie, a daunting task which is made easier by his excellent cast. Dujardin and Bejo excel in their respective roles and their chemistry is a joy to watch. Both are not only excellent actors but mesmerising dancers with routines which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would be proud of.

    I sat in a cinema which only had a few other patrons in it. I was able to sit at the back of the cinema directly under the projection booth. This added to the atmosphere as I could hear the workings of the projector, the mechanical sounds really complimented the silent film and I would urge anyone who goes to see this film to sit as close to the projector as possible.

    Please go and see this film. It is a master class of early cinema which is compelling and enjoyable to watch. This film will not appeal to everyone and I had my own reservations about it before viewing it. However, I’m glad I did and you will be too.

  • Will The Artist be overlooked by the Oscars? If it does, it would be tragic. Because this little gem of a film is quite simply breathtaking, and is deserving of a spot in any annual Top Ten lists, including mine, of which a place is already guaranteed.

    Yes, this is how great this film is. Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist was brought to the limelight after being awarded Best Actor at Cannes, where it officially competed in the Palme d’Or category and premiered, I believe, to thundering applause.

    Of course, in an early scene in The Artist, when a popular film starring George Valentin ends, you won’t hear the thundering applause; you can only see. The saying goes that seeing is believing, but by the time the final credits of The Artist roll, seeing is convincing.

    That feeling of being convinced that in this day and age of 3-D and sound effects wonder, a silent black-and-white film can still thrive and gather acclaim is remarkably satisfying, not only from a historical-cinematic standpoint, but also from a political-economic one. After all, stripped to its very core, great filmmaking is, and has always been, about telling a good story.

    Set in the late 1920s, George (Jean Dujardin) is a highly-adored silent film actor who begins to fade away when the revolutionary introduction of sound in films strongly ruffled the feathery dynamics of Hollywood filmmaking in the early 1930s. George refuses to change because of his pride and suffers accordingly.

    On the other hand, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) becomes a rising star and screen beauty after starring in a series of popular “talkies”. Peppy who meets George early on in the first act feels sympathy for her acquaintance and becomes worried when the latter starts to make headlines for the wrong reason.

    Well, the story may be far from radical, but its conventionality suits the simplicity of a silent film. The original score by Ludovic Bource (surely an Oscar nomination for him?) brilliantly sets the mood, and more importantly, the pace of the film. The Artist moves quickly, always confident in finding the rhythmic flow of the narrative.

    It reminds me of Chomet’s The Illusionist (2010), an incredible animated film with almost no dialogue. There are key similarities: A lead character who plays “an artist” struggling to find an audience for his craft, the exquisite use of music as the primary source of emotion creation, and the extraordinary focus on facial expressions as in the true spirit of silent cinema.

    For those who are ignorant of film history, The Artist gives us an appreciable glimpse of the distant past. Those were the days…when Hollywood productions were glamorous affairs…when stars could play the film director like a puppet (nowadays even Michael Bay can fire Megan Fox)…when getting a ticket for a highly-anticipated film means queuing up for hours.

    The Artist brings to life the hypnotic power of silent cinema. At the same time, director Hazanavicius injects fresh creativity by toying with the film’s sound design, and in one excellent extended sequence, he uses the mournful “Scene d’Amour” music by Bernard Hermann from Vertigo (1958) to stirring effect.

    GRADE: A

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