MOVIE REVIEW: “The Artist” – What is The Phenomenon All About?

Michel Hazanavicius Talks about His Passion for Film Making

What is The Artist’ Phenomenon All About?

Somehow, in the midst of endless action yawners, hack romances, gross comedies and other cynical mediocre movies coming out of 2011, somebody actually made a great movie. Not just a good entertainment, or even an Oscar contender, but the kind of film you will be talking about for decades. Such is the situation with the French movie by Michel Hazanavicius called The Artist. The fact that is from crypt is actually irrelevant, because it is a silent film for all intents and purposes, meaning it will be accessible to all audiences.

Simply put, this release makes you very proud to be a human being who watches the movies, be it in Peru or Shanghai, Peoria or the Cinemas in Northampton. Plot wise, the film appears to be a combination of the setting of Singing in the Rain, mixed with the narrative of A Star is Born, it follows the rise of a young girl to Hollywood star, and a corresponding fall of a male star during the transition from silent movies to talkies in the early 1930s. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are the lead actors who go through these transitions, echoing the energy and presence of Fred and Ginger in some spirited musical sequences.

The movie captures silent era very effectively, and found new ways to bring monumental emotional heft out of the limitations of the soundless black-and-white format. Physical gestures and expressions become huge and haunting, especially in the latter scenes when the fallen actor in a turn sad or enraged by his turn in fortunes. There is even a bit of surrealism during the transition to the talkie era, one that involves heretofore silent objects starting to make sounds that startle the male star, signaling an unknown future was coming into the forefront.

The unrequited love of the two stars create the emotional privet for the rest of the drama, that remains overall comedic, yet transitions into and out of pathos magnificently. There are a lot of homages to Hollywood formulas, clichés and famous lines as part of the pageant that is the film tribute to the technology that gave us the movie medium. Yet nothing ever becomes too pretentious, or condescending to the source material from which it derives.

It has an exuberant and moving middle part and ending that conforms to the ultimate classic contradiction about movie drama – “what the American public wants… is a tragedy with a happy ending.” Whatever your opinion of those conventions, you will love The Artist’ .