The Artist

The Artist is a 2011 French film directed by Michel Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where the film premiered. The Artist was nominated for six Golden Globes, the most of any film from 2011; it won three: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score, and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Dujardin).  The Artist has ten nominations for an Oscar and has a solid chance of becoming the first silent film in 80 years to win an Academy Award on February, 26th, 2012.

The year is 1927  at the premier of A Russian Affair where the very debonair star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the top of his acting career.  Fans and Press wait eagerly outside the theater to catch a glimpse of the stars as they leave.  George Valentin accidentally meets a young fan (Bérénice Bejo) and is photographed as she kisses him.  The story turns to Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) a young starlet determined to enter show business.  Later, Peppy lands an extra part in George Valentin’s new movie and while shooting a dance scene together their romance sparks.  The story continues to follow the rise of  Peppy Miller’s career.

The advent of film with sound called “talkies” comes to Hollywood.  Kinograph Studios producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) tells George they will stop making silents and begin searching for the new faces of Hollywood.  Refusing to accept the novelty of  talking films and the reality that his career may be ending, George Valentin decides to make his own silent production.  The stock market crash of 1929 happens and George loses everything, including his marriage.  The only hope is the success of his new film which is due to premier the same day as the new “talkie” starring Peppy Miller.

The downward spiral of George Valentin continues while the success of Peppy Miller flourishes.  There is a magnificent scene reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, where both actors  meet in the busy stairwell of Kinograph Studios just as George was leaving and Peppy was arriving.  The symbolism of ascension and dissension is brilliant and is the central theme to this film.

Rising and falling, the old and the new, pride and love are timeless themes and nothing new in cinema.  One could observe similarities to George Valentin’s character in other Hollywood films such as Sunset Boulevard (1950) where Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is afraid of being forgotten.  The Artist can also be seen as a variation of the original (1937) version of A Star Is Born where young Vivki Lester (Janet Gaynor) rises to stardom with the help of leading man Norman Maine (Fredric March) who’s career is fading out.  George Valentin is so caught up in denial and despair that he fails to recognize the love and kindness of Peppy Miller, the loyalty of his devoted chauffeur Deaudrin (James Cromwell), and the faithfulness of his constant companion Uggie the four-legged star of the film.  Uggie never leaves George Valentin’s side throughout the film and is a most adorable and amazing dog actor!

Michel Hazanavicius’ writing and direction is flawless! Succeeding in an authentic recreation of a silent film in both technique and emotion.  There’s a magical classic Hollywood feel to the entire production that instantly takes the audience back to the 1927.  Much credit for a wonderful soundtrack should be given to composer Ludovic Bource who keeps the film alive in the absence of speech.  The set design and wardrobe are impeccable.  Hats off to Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo as well as the rest of the wonderful cast!  The Artist is a truly entertaining production surpassing all excellence.  The Artist is a fresh ‘re-fresh’ of classic Hollywood with all ingredients: corny, upbeat, fun, romantic, sad, tragic, & magic! After seeing The Artist you can’t say Hollywood doesn’t make them like they used to!

Stefano Vieceli abandoned a successful television production career to follow his passion for photography, fine arts, foreign languages, and travel. A proud New Yorker and lover of life & laughter!


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