HTS Moderator , Reviewer
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8916[/img]Title: The Artist
Starring: Bérénice Bejo, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Written by: Michel Hazanavicius
Studio: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 101 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 26th, 2012
HTS Overall Score:81.5
Just like Pepsi and Mountain Dew, Hollywood has decided to make a throwback to the days of yesteryear. For the last twelve months, the cinema circles have been buzzing with excitement over Michael Hazanavicius’ “The Artist." Using older films as a basis for newer films has been a staple of modern cinema for decades, but rarely has a director been brave enough to dip back in time to over 80 years and COMPLETELY replicate the experience. However, here we are with “The Artist,” a modern day silent film with the only thing keeping it from being 100% authentic is the production date.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is on top of the world. He’s a Hollywood star who’s got it all: a pretty wife (who hates him), a career as one of the biggest silent film actors of his era, and he’s his own biggest fan. Gleefully grinning on, George pats himself on the back and whimsically laughs at his boss, who is furious at George for selfish antics that upstage his new motion picture review in the newspaper, and for refusing to believe that “Talkies” are the future of cinema. Standing up for Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a cute and saucy dancer, happens to be the major stumbling block for our dear friend George. Becoming a dancer in his production “The German Affair” gets her noticed, and soon enough she is signing a deal with Kinograph pictures to be their new star in the “Talkies." George watches in misery as his entire world crumbles around him. He tries to prove to everyone, himself included, that the era of silent films isn’t over, and recklessly finances his own silent picture. However, at every turn, he is confronted by evidence declaring that new meat is in town, and his era is over. Spiraling ever downward, he comes to the end of his rope, his only friends a manservant who refuses to leave him and his co-star Uggie the dog. George is forced to sell all his possessions to keep himself above water. In utter misery, he destroys the last reel copies of his films, starting a fire that sends him to the hospital. There, in his darkest hour, Peppy Miller finds him and takes him in, putting the smile back on his face and giving back to him some semblance of respect. From there, the two learn how to adapt to the new while still not destroying everything that went before it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8919[/img]“The Artist” is a simple story; nothing about it is complex or incredibly deep, being that Hazanavicius was trying to replicate the silent films of old. The main communication is all through the over-exaggerated facial expressions and bodily motions of the actors. As someone familiar with the silent film industry, I was very surprised at how perfectly they replicated the era. From the credits rolling at the beginning of the film in pure silence, to the slightly sped up camera speed in "action" sequences, down to the light and breezy plotline, I actually FELT like I was watching an old 20’s Chaplin movie sans Chaplin.
Now, what’s so award-winning about replicating something that’s been done for decades nearly a century ago? It's not just the quality of replication. What makes “The Artist” so wonderful is the slight twists. There’s one scene where George Valentin is having a nightmare where everyone and everything around him is able to make sound and speak, except him. The dream flawlessly demonstrates the progression of the change occurring in the silent film industry as well as in his own life. Allegories, some big and some small, pop up throughout the film, showing the sinking spiral happening in George’s little world as well as the whole world’s cinema experience. The ending alone (which shall not be spoiled) was one of the highlights of the movie for me and transitioned the feel of the film from a Charlie Chaplin to Bing Crosby.
Going in, I had mixed expectations for the film, but came out not only pleasantly surprised, but grinning from ear to ear. “The Artist” is a whimsical outing for everyone and seems to be more of a PG movie than the PG-13 that the MPAA issued. Light, fun, and something the whole family can enjoy, Michael Hazanavicius took a risk and it paid off for him, in spades.
Rated PG-13 for a disturbing image and a crude gesture
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8918[/img]The most striking aspect of "The Artist" is the picture; devoid of our standard fare of colors, we're limited to shades of black and white, blended seamlessly to create a pristine picture. Black levels are perfect, shades of grey make a striking contrast to the color saturated images we are used to seeing, but I believe black and white creates a canvas that is much easier to transfer to home video. Less compression due to the diminished color palette leave us with deep inky blacks, smooth greys and shimmering whites throughout. Delivered in it's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio we are able to see some of the best detail that black and white cinema has to offer. The detail is exquisite: we can see every wrinkle and bend in George Valentin's suit, and facial detail is superb. Even the tiny beauty mark on Peppy Miller's face is easily seen. The only thing that mars the image is the occasional banding and a slight softness to the picture. It's not wildly distracting and only noticed if one is really looking for it. Overall, Sony shows us just how good a black and white film can look when supplemented with modern technology. As Mary Poppins would say, "Practically perfect in every way."
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=8915[/img]You might ask, "How can you review the audio on a SILENT picture be"? Well luckily for us, the movie isn't COMPLETELY silent. While there is the occasional word or sound blended into the picture 99.99999999% of the film's audio is the orchestral score. I have to admit the Ragtime and Jazz score keeps the movie swinging along and fits the mood perfectly. The score is rather reserved though, nothing wildly explosive or in your face. Rather it tends to flow WITH the movie, keeping to the background and deigning to TELL the story and be a part of it rather than shock the viewer with sounds. Since most of the sound is music, you can be certain we aren't going to be using our subwoofers very often. While there is SOME bass, it's relegated to supplementing the low end of the score rather than shaking our walls down. Audio separation of the channels is good, and there is the occasional use of the surrounds, but this is a mostly a 2.0 track. I was thoroughly impressed with the clarity of the track, highs and lows are replicated perfectly and the clean replication of every symphonic melody made up for the lack of an enveloping track. While it may not be perfect I believe that the subdued track is a help rather than a hindrance to the film and most closely duplicates the style and feel of an era long gone.
• Blooper Reel
• The Artist: The Making of an American Romance
• Q&A with the Filmmakers and Cast
• Hollywood as a Character: The Locations of The Artist
• The Artisans Behind The Artist
• Sneak Peeks
• Digital copy
I went into “The Artist” with mixed feelings and came out totally and utterly tickled pink. While the tone and feel of the movie may be different than what your average movie watcher is used to, it goes to show that a film can be good or bad in just about ANY style or genre. While some might view the lack of audible dialogue as a detriment, I see it as a boon; gone are the one liners and poor writing that plagues so many pictures today, and we are left with just the actors themselves and their interpretation of the character through movement and facial expression. Blending the old silent film with a little bit of “talkie” works, and works well I might add. Simple at heart, but pleasing to the heart, “The Artist” is a masterpiece, in my opinion, and worth of all the public praise that has been heaped upon it over the last 8 months. A must watch.
Recommendation: Watch It