The Academy has a hard-on for films that praise old Hollywood without ever truly capturing the magic of it. The Artist is the latest trend of copycat that presents itself as a black and white silent film from the 1920s. There are two very gifted performers on display in the film, but aside from their performances the film is mostly a tribute. It works fine, but it never captivates the audience or becomes something original and worthy of all of its high praise.
Large than life movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is on top of the world. He’s the hottest celebrity in Hollywood and he can shoot just about any picture he wants, but change is drawing closer and closer. It comes in the form of Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo); a rambunctious young dancer with her eyes set on the stars.
The two best represent the past and future of moving pictures in Hollywood, with George being the silent era and Peppy the spark of talkies. Two different, yet exciting moments for movies collide leaving some without a job and some with bright futures.
The Artist is not only presented as an old-school black and white silent film, but it’s also written like one. The story feels like something lifted straight from the era, with the strong and fearless Valentin providing the world with entertainment while the lady friend is supposed to act as a sideline character. Peppy is no sideline character though and she shows that to the studio executives, which lands her on the front of the rising talkie industry.
Director Michel Hazanavicius shoots the film without any technical faults, but somewhere along the lines the film becomes trapped in its setting. I’m all for films that pay tribute to a brighter time for movies, but it’s crucial for that film to relate to present day and bring everything full circle, like what Martin Scorsese did with Hugo. The Artist never feels like something that achieves that tricky, yet very important distinction.
To me The Artist is just another Oscar bait film that is made with heart and soul, but not nearly enough to warrant praise. It’s a good movie, but it’s nowhere near great. Some might consider it unfair to bring up its Oscar hype, but I’d say it’s more than fair, because if the film were to have come out in April or March I doubt anyone would care about it by the time September rolls around.
I could name 15 better films that are far more deserving of praise (let alone a gold statue) than The Artist.
This is probably the trickiest 1080p Blu-Ray transfer in terms of grading goes. The transfer is faithfully black and white, with black bars blocking up both sides of the screen. There’s a hazy glow that shadows the entire film, yet it only enhances the representation of the period in which the film takes place in. Still, the image appears to be a little too soft for something filmed this recently.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is another tough cookie to judge because there’s very little actually spoken. The musical cues have no problems speaking up and the film’s reminiscent score soothes the eardrums on the rear channels.
Here’s a list of special features included on the disc:
- Blooper Reel (HD)
- The Artist: The Making of an American Romance (HD)
- Q&A with Filmmakers and Cast (HD)
- Hollywood as a Character: The Locations of The Artist (HD)
- The Artisans Behind The Artist (HD)
- Sony Previews (HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
A feeling of underwhelming disappointment took me over after I first watched The Artist and that same feeling revealed itself when I tried making it through the film a second time. It’s watchable because of its two leading performances that spark excellent chemistry and make for lots of on-screen entertainment, plus the director certainly knows how to film a movie with an eye for the 1920s, but aside from those positive ticks I’d say The Artist is mostly wasted celluloid. People were barely talking about the film in 2011 and I can almost bet people won’t even remember it in 5 years. Truly great cinema is eternal. The Artist isn’t.