Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
So far, The Artist is easily my favorite movie of all these Oscar nominees. It’s got the same director and star of the recent OSS 117 films, which are actually pretty goddamn funny (the first one much more so than the second). I still think that Hugo is going to win best picture, but I’m really hoping that Dujardin gets best actor. And, if nothing else, hopefully this can propel the two to do more high profile stuff (and a couple American films wouldn’t be that bad either. Not that I’m against French cinema, but it takes way longer for that stuff to filter over here. I’d love to see a movie with these guys in the theater. In fact, I would probably love to see The Artist in a theater. I’m rambling, I should get on with the review.
Dujardin plays a popular silent film actor during the time when talkies started coming out. At first, he thinks that sound film is just a fad, and makes his own silent film on his own money. It bombs, and he ends up spiraling down into poverty, also partly because of the recession. He turns to drink, and in a fit of depression, sets fire to the studio where his previous films were kept. He gets seriously injured in the fire and is released, and is ready to kill himself until a rising star (who got her start from him) demands that he not give up and the show must go on.
The Artist reminds me quite a bit of The Last Laugh, an F.W. Murnau film that Hazanavicius almost certainly watched in preparation for this film. According to All-Father Wikipedia, he heavily researched silent films to find the best way to make one. Oh, did I not mention that? The Artist itself is almost entirely a silent film, and is completely in black and white. There aren’t even that many dialogue cards throughout the film, and it instead relies almost entirely on the older, melodramatic style of acting to get it’s points across. Which it does beautifully. Dujardin is really the perfect guy to play in this type of film, as his acting style is so physical, yet graceful and realistic. Also, he’s just so fucking charming. He’s got all the (non-crazy) genuinity (this is a word I just made up, but fuck you) of Tom Cruise from the 80’s and the smarmy self-importance of Sean Connery in the 60’s. I’d say he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on, him and Hazanavicius, who obviously cares a lot about his craft. I’m really looking forward to what’s coming next from these two, whether they be together or apart.
Okay, fine, I have more to say about this movie. John Goodman is in it, and is unsurprisingly great in his role as the studio rep (a role which reminds one of Barton Fink, though not of Goodman’s character in that film). Also, Hazanavicius takes advantage of the medium of the silent film, especially in a dream sequence Dujardin’s character has where he’s assaulted by sound. That little bit… it’s really well done. Bérénice Bejo (who was also in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies) plays a believable 20’s woman, but she’s completely outshined by Dujardin’s performance (just look at the dance number at the end. One of those two people looks like a professional, the other, not so much). I could actually probably just keep going on and on about this film. You should probably just watch it and stop reading my drunken ramblings.