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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: The Artist (spoiler-free)

It’s bad hoodoo to explain a joke. Or a great dramatic moment, for that matter. Emotion, whether laughter or tears, is not an intellectual exercise and this, intellectualizing them is a losing pursuit.

The Artist is both of these things… and not a whole lot more. It will make you laugh… and cry… and reflect.

We can discuss the technique, but that’s not what you want to know. I won’t discuss the structure here because the experience of the film is so much about the choices that Michel Hazanavicius makes as a writer and director. As an audience member, you anticipate choices that seem more or less obvious… and if and when they land, somehow, they still feel fresh.

We’ve seen this story before. It’s the arrival of the talkies from Singin’ In the Rain. It’s the rise, fall, and survival of a movie star and his relationship with a rising talent from A Star Is Born. It’s the comedic brilliance of silent films from Silent Movie, and, of course, from a long history of silent films.

But it’s really not like anything we’ve ever seen because it is the unique voice of Hazanavicius and the talents of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo that make it all theirs. It reflects everything and feels singular.

It’s funny… the trailer tells so much of the story, but can’t begin to convey the sweep of the piece. The film defies the idea that you can have the experience in 2 minutes. Or, for that matter, in a review.

Not everyone will love it, but for those who do, it will be a lot like falling in love. You can’t really express what it is you feel, but you feel it so powerfully, you can’t ever imagine not feeling it… or even feeling it less.

I wish I knew how to say more without infringing on whatever your experience is going to be. But I am pretty sure that 90+ percent of people who read this review will see this film… because a film lover has to… and if you’re not one, how the hell did you end up reading this review?

20 Responses to “Review: The Artist (spoiler-free)”

  1. The Pope says:

    Obviously I haven’t seen this yet, but with the Weinsteins positioning it my current question is in which category are they going to propose it? Best Feature or Best Foreign Language…

  2. David Poland says:

    It’s Best Picture.

    And it’s a silent film, though in theory – won’t happen – France could put it up.

  3. Are the festival prints in proper Academy ratio or pillarboxed 1.85? Given how many art-houses butchered the presentation of MEEK’S CUTOFF, I’m kinda hoping it’s the latter, especially if THE ARTIST gets some multiplex play in the event of a BP nomination.

  4. Oliver Fish says:

    Possibly my most eagerly anticipated film of the year.

  5. ThriceDamned says:

    Super-excited for this one. Incredible trailer.

  6. Stephen Holt says:

    Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costumes, Best Editing, Best SCORE(!?!)Best Sound, Best Sound Editing…Harvey will hit all the high notes with these branches that he can. You know that. Nice, spoiler-free review, David. I saw it in Montreal and fell madly in love. I was dancin’ in my seat! Who needs sound films anyway?=The great question “The Artist” poses so beautifully.

    If Harvey can get an Oscar for Roberto Benigni for Best Actor, he can do it for Jean Dujardin!

  7. movielocke says:

    I’ve noted that not many people are prediction Bejo (who will probably be winning) in BSA, even though almost everyone has jumped on the Dujardin train. Immense oversight?

  8. LexG says:

    This DUJARDIN guy looks like a mugging douche and nobody’s ever heard of him before.

    Looks awful, hope it bombs.

  9. cadavra says:

    But look at the bright side, Lex: at least you won’t have to close-caption it!

  10. yancyskancy says:

    If only he had the name recognition of Sam Worthington. :)

  11. cadavra says:

    Yancy FTW.

  12. Brooke C says:

    I just saw this at Telluride. I absolutely loved it….I smiled non-stop for the first half hour. DuJardin is beyond perfect. Just a lovely, lovely film.

  13. cadavra says:

    I just hope its success doesn’t prevent them from making that third OSS 117 film they promised us.

  14. JKill says:

    I watched the first OSS 117 film to see what all the fuss is about. I was hesitant because I didn’t think the world needed another 60s spy spoof but man, was that movie hilarious, not to mention well shot and clever. I smiled and laughed throughout. Dujardin is pretty brilliant. I’m now quite excited for THE ARTIST.

  15. TorontoMovieLover says:

    The movie was shown at the Toronto Film Festival using the 1:33 aspect ratio. The audience on Friday night loved it. I was there. I loved it, too. However, what needs to be explained by Harvey W. and his minions is the full use of an orchestral sweep from Bernard Herrmann’s “Vertigo” score. We’re not talking a snippet here or there, we’re talking using the “Vertigo” music in most of the dramatic scenes before the end of the movie. Why? How was this decided?

  16. cadavra says:

    Probably by the director. It’s not unusual to reuse film music; in fact, Scorsese used Herrmann’s entire CAPE FEAR score for his remake. Plus Hazanavicius used a faux Herrmann cue for the climax of OSS 117: LOST IN RIO, so it’s not surprising he’d go for the real thing here. After all, isn’t the entire picture a love letter to Old Hollywood?

  17. Wiseacre says:

    Saw this at TIFF and it is truly marvellous. Witty, clever, moving, beautiful to watch, it’s a filmlover’s dream. I am having a hard time imagining how this movie was ever greenlighted but we should all be grateful that it was. I can’t wait to see it again.

  18. I’ll right away seize your rss as I can not in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  19. Sop1 says:

    Totally agree with your review.Anyone who says that there’s no real use for a concept like this film presents, whether regarding the score, script or the artists involved, is blind to what art really is, and needs some lessons.It was for me like falling in love with my spouse of nearly 30 years: Unexpected,a little strange but strangely familiar, overwhelmingly romantic without being calculated, with the ensuing deeper meaning/conflict/passion/laughter/joy keeping up interest for decades. An homage to the classics, it is now a classic, itself.

  20. old faithful says:

    For ages we’ve embraced Tarantino’s genre-rescuing and revisionist mash-ups, anachronistic fun. Pastiche King wearing conservationist-nerd badge like your GPS-film encyclopedia.

    And still silent movies (that included loads of different genres too, you know) remain the last bastion of snobbery? When it’s attempted, it’s gotta be 100% accurate, must be a profound masterpiece outting everytime (because ALL silents made back then, “were”?), the barrage of historical checking or pot-calling-kettle bias discredits every attempt…


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