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David Poland

By David Poland

Dujardin Kills On Leno

Jean Dujardin is a brilliant performer and a massive star. And he’s French. This has been the oddest curve of the awards season, as he has worked hard to learn English, so he could fully participate in the “fun.” It’s been hard. He’s a intuitive comedian, so he needs not just the language, but the instant access to it that allows him to, essentially, be himself.

Even in these segments with Leno, I can see him having moments of frustration, wanting to fly without quite having the words or being 100% of what Leno just said. But you can begin to see just how naturally rich this guy’s skills are.

The Best Actor race is one of the relatively open races this year… in great part because of the straightjacket of language Dujardin has been wearing. I only hope he’ll work through it and stick around Hollywood so English-language cinema can enjoy his gifts for decades to come.

And here is a look at some more of his musical work, from OSS 117: Nest of Spies. In this scene, he is meant to be invisibly undercover…

59 Responses to “Dujardin Kills On Leno”

  1. Rob says:

    I have a feeling we won’t be seeing much of ‘The Artist’ crew after this year. Maybe if they were a little younger. But I doubt they will just pick up their roots in France and move to LA to make movies. :/ On the other hand, they all deserve Oscars just for the amount of work they have had to do since Cannes, it’s unreal. All the interviews, press tours. Berenice and Michel have 2 small kids. Living out of hotels and in foreign place. yikes.

  2. cadavra says:

    It’s stunning how quickly he’s learning English. Hell, he already speaks it better than our previous President.

  3. David Poland says:

    Rob – I don’t see them all becoming naturalized Americans either. But Michel is into reconsidering genre and both he an Berenice speak good English, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see an occasional American project for him.

    It’s been fascinating how the birth of their second child in October has NOT been a part of the season discussion. I guess it’s because Berenice looks so good so soon after.

    But Jean should be catnip to American producers… and he has had a lot of interest around here even before this. It’ll be interesting now that he’s had English forced upon him.

  4. leahnz says:

    while not really giving much of a shit, i hope dujardin wins for ‘leading actor’… him or oldman for their ‘opposite world’ compelling perfs (with the caveat that i haven’t seen the bichir movie) — jean’s turn so dynamic and larger-than-life and heart-on-the-sleeve and charming and delectable and tragic, while oldman’s is so subtle and internal and economical and glimpsingly vulnerable and all-in-the-eyes…a fascinating contrast in style.

    (‘the descendants’ was an awkward, snoozy disappointment for me — clooney was fine but christ, whoever thought adapting a movie from that story was a good idea should take a walk outside and clear their head; payne’s uncanny ability to find the right pitch for his dramedies finally falters, too try-hard and yet not enough, blah. weird)

    clooney could always do a biopic to shill for his next oscar… may i suggest portraying ‘greg feith’, he of go-to NTSB air accident investigator guy fame. riveting.

  5. hcat says:

    I can see Dujardin having an Audrey Tatou type career. Big happy Weinstein hit followed by some back and forth French and American productions building huge amounts of goodwill among a limited but dedicated audience.

  6. dinovelvet says:

    So which action/superhero series will be the one to cast Dujardin as the villain?

  7. movieman says:

    Has anybody else seen the “Smash” pilot yet?
    I watched it on Amazon, and was…underwhelmed.
    I’d been looking forward to it all season long, but the premiere episode felt a wee bit flat to me.
    McPhee and Huston are individually fine, but everyone else just tries too damn hard–sort of like presenters at the Tony Awards who give themselves aneurisms trying to convince you that Broadway is the greatest thing to happen to theater since the birth of William Shakespeare.

  8. BC says:

    Dujardin didn’t speak a word of English before “The Artist” and now he is well on his way. Looks, charm, humor, talent. He’s got everything to become a huge international star. I hope Leno has him back on again soon.

  9. JS Partisan says:

    Yeah this film bombed. It’s a failure in this country. Hurt Locker at least had been on DVD when it won, but this movie is dying on the vine. If only the Academy had to justify their very weird best picture choice.

  10. How is maintaining a $3,000+ per theater average every week since release (including two weeks of wide release), looking forward to what could be a $40M total run provided an Oscar win, bombing? (Considering that it’s a B&W silent film, that’s a near miracle.) It will have been profitable and outperformed everyone’s post-Cannes expectations for it. Get some perspective!

  11. JS Partisan says:

    Yeah, look at the Descendants raking it in after the noms were announced, and notice The Artist is no where near the top 10. You are assuming it’s going to get a post awards bump to make 40m, but that’s assuming anyone is going to care if it wins.

    Sure that comes across as snotty but really, no matter the quality of the movie, the Academy rewarding a movie that’s basically been rejected by the American people is very weird. They’ve done it before and will do it again, but their refusal to be a bit more populous VEXES… MORE PEOPLE THAN ME!

  12. hcat says:

    I don’t think the American people have rejected it as much as unaware of it. There hasn’t been that big of a marketing push and TWC is probably hoping to win the oscar and then get the average joes in the theaters. You have to admit Artist is a tricky sell, especially compared to a Clooney movie. Do you think you would be owed an explanation if Tree of Life won?

  13. yancyskancy says:

    “…but everyone else just tries too damn hard–sort of like presenters at the Tony Awards who give themselves aneurisms trying to convince you that Broadway is the greatest thing to happen to theater since the birth of William Shakespeare.”

    So it’s a realistic portrayal of theater people then? :)

  14. LexG says:

    Plus isn’t there some weird bit in the pilot where Messing wants to do the Marilyn Musical because she’s all choked up over “the way they treated her”? Messing all NOBLE and SOBBING over the fate of MARILYN! at every turn, like she knew her personally or she just died last week.

    That said: MCPHEVER 4 LIFE

  15. anghus says:

    to call the artist “a bomb” once again shows your complete and utter lack of film industry understanding. Expectations are far different for a film like The Artist. The success is in getting it released wide at all, getting it nominated for every major award (and likely several major wins), and making enough money to make it worthwhile.

    In comparison, take something like Hugo. 200 million in production and marketing. Hasn’t cracked 100 million worldwide. Got the awards recognition but that won’t help Hugo make it’s money back. It won’t hurt but it hasn’t helped.

    The Artist will be profitable because of the awards push. It may amaze you IO, but some distributors have a long term plan to make money and employ different strategies than soomething like Chronicle.

    Everyone’s an expert from the comfort of their armchair.

  16. Joe Leydon says:

    OK, I know I have posted this elsewhere, but I did not get much response. So forgive me while I repeat: Didn’t the folks who made The Artist kinda-sorta step on their own punchline? Isn’t the whole point of the thing that the guy didn’t want to make talkies because he has a thick French accent? But, honestly, how many people who saw the film really grasp that because the payoff was so rushed in the final scene?

  17. anghus says:

    i didn’t think the payoff was rushed in the final scene at all.


    You’ve got the dance number, the setup of the scene being staged where you hear the audio. The line is delivered as they talk about setting up for Take 2.

    What exactly about that was rushed?

  18. Joe Leydon says:

    But that’s just it: It’s so late in the movie. And he delivers the line in such an off-the-cuff fashion — well, let me put it like this: I wonder how many folks actually grasp that this IS the reason why he’s avoided making talkies.

  19. yancyskancy says:

    Joe: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons the film confused me.


    All through the film, nothing is said about Valentin having an accent. We’re supposed to think his objections to sound are purely artistic (hence the title of the movie, right?). No one — not Peppy, not the studio head, no one — says, “Hey, you’re gonna have trouble keeping a career going in American talkies with that accent, Frenchie.” So to me that last line of his didn’t work — if it’s supposed to retroactively explain his refusal to make talkies, it makes everything that comes before into a lie; if it’s supposed to be a throwaway joke, it’s just lame. And some people aren’t even catching it apparently — I’ve seen a couple of commenters here and there who miss the accent. Seemed pretty clear to me though: “Wiz pleasure.”

    Did I miss something?

  20. Triple Option says:

    Yeah, I missed the part about the accent as well. I thought it was artistic choice or if not studio execs type casting him as being only silent film guy. I wasn’t thinking “oh yeah, that’s why” when I heard his voice at the end. If I noticed I must’ve been too quick to write it off as an unintentional consequnce of French people making the film. Wait, I kinda remember something about his voice coming up but I was thinking it was due to French accent.

  21. JS Partisan says:

    Anghus, stop being a dick referring to me with a nickname that’s ridiculous. Oh I forgot, you hate Peta, so being considerate to another poster is expecting too much. Somewhere Storymark is screaming; “IRONY!”, but that’s a horse of a different color. Nevertheless, what’s the strategy? Release it for a BIG PUSH after the Oscars when you have Lorax and John Carter in subsequent weeks? Is that the strategy?

    Your mistake with the above post is doing what you think I am doing most of the time: defending a movie you (I) like. Sorry, but Hugo is a master piece and god bless every bit of the 200m that made it. The Artist is a lot of things to a lot of people, but ignoring that right now it is a box office failure is utterly ridiculous.

    Assuming it’s going to get a financial gain from a reward push, ignores that NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE ABOUT IT! It’s on 3300 screen and it’s drawing flies. This has nothing to do with the quality of the film but with the HARSH REALITIES OF THE SITUATION!

    Those realities being that the Academy plans on rewarding a film that has been ignored the entire time it’s been a front-runner. If that’s fine with you and your supposed knowledge of things that do not include yelling at kids to get of your yard, then that’s fine and dandy like sour candy. I just wouldn’t be surprise if it’s awards push doesn’t help. I am not rooting for it to fail, but that seems to be where this film is going.

    ETA: Oh yeah, the comfort of my armchair? What the H? Sorry, I’d say this to Harvey’s face. Why is that movie sitting there fading out of obscurity? Seriously, they should be pushing the fuck out of it but they are holding it back. It’s a strange strategy but excuse me for questioning a movie you love.

  22. LexG says:

    I honestly can’t believe you guys (and 3 of the smarter HB regulars at that) didn’t get the accent thing at the end. That is MIND BLOWING to me.

  23. cadavra says:

    His accent has nothing to do with his refusal to do talkies. Right after the premiere at the beginning of the film, he is shown speaking into two microphones held by radio reporters. His voice is presumably also heard when he snaps at Peppy during her restaurant interview. He would do neither of these if he was trying to hide his accent.

    And let me again point out that 1) ARTIST is still playing on fewer than 1,000 screens, and 2) BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING took ten weeks to get to $16 million in 2002 dollars. Writing ARTIST off as a flop at this point is simply absurd.

  24. LexG says:

    Make it four.

  25. JS Partisan says:

    Darn it, got my per-screen average and theatre count reversed, but this is not a populous movie Caddy. This is a silent film. Kids, don’t want to see it. A lot of adults have no desire to see it either. What does that leave? Cinephiles. Yay, that’s us, and do we really believe that we can make this movie a 100m success? Comparing it to My Big Fat Greek Wedding ignores that one has sound, the other does not (well most of it really), and the other plays well with women. The women help legs and stating the women will ignore seeing the Vow or even This Means War for The Artist is expecting… a lot.

    Seriously, when I defend the Avengers from you folks. I will remember this discussion because when you love something, you defend it, and that makes sense except when I do it. Which leads to me being the scourge of Carpathia or something.

  26. yancyskancy says:

    Maybe I’m not being clear. I heard his accent at the end. I realize the other characters in the movie are hearing him when he speaks. Of course he’s not hiding his accent. But this begs the question — since many accented silent stars lost their careers when talkies came in, why doesn’t ANYONE in this film bring up Valentin’s accent as an issue? When the studio head is showing him Missi Pyle’s sound test, wouldn’t he naturally say something like, “You know, George, artistic standards aside, I don’t know how I can sell you with that thick accent”?

    So seriously, did I miss something? I do recall getting heavy-lidded in a couple of spots. Maybe I zoned out.

  27. leahnz says:

    just my two cents but i don’t think you missed anything yancy, they didn’t explain it — i thought at the end more along the lines of he had found a way to overcome the perceived indignity of having to talk as the preferred way to communicate on film, as opposed to the ‘true art’ (hence the title), the challenge of having to use everything BUT your voice – your whole body – to get your point across…but maybe i’m trippin and it was his accent, i don’t know

    (don’t worry j f sebastian, i think wilhelm von homburg has the scourge of carpathia thing all sewn up, but you can be the ‘monster of moldavia’…alongside me as the ‘slayer of slovenia’ for pooh-poohing pitt)

  28. Mike says:

    I also assumed that his accent was the reason he refused to do talkies, and thought it was a pretty lame reason. I never got that he was doing it for artistic reasons, as they never really bothered to explain what the artistic reasons were, other than to label the movie The Artist.

  29. movieman says:

    Touche, Yancy, lol.

  30. anghus says:

    its not about love or hate. unlike you i’m able to look at movie both artistically and as a business enterprise.

    My comments have nothing to do with loving or hating the film. It has to do with your inability to perceive that some movies are marketed differently and that not all of them are released wide to 3000+ screens and instantly make a shit ton of money.

  31. Roy Batty says:

    I think the accent is one of the minor failings of the film, coming so late in the movie it becomes a distraction. Had the director & star not been past collaborators I think that one line would have been dubbed.

  32. waterbucket says:

    Oh my god, he’s so handsome and charming. And that tooth, it drives me wild. Best Actor Oscar!

  33. jennab says:

    Absolutely charming! Agreed, Descendants major disappointment, didn’t find Moneyball all that either…Jonah Hill for Supporting Actor, wtf, there was NOTHING exceptional about his performance…was strangely & pleasantly surprised by Iron Lady, not perfect, but interesting & Streep’s performance is staggering (except for the scene in which she dresses down her 2nd in command, when all of her annoying tics are on display), loved Michelle in Marilyn…still think Potter 7.2 should have gotten the 10th slot…I mean, come on!!!

  34. cadavra says:

    JS: I didn’t say it would hit $100 million, but $50 is likely and more than enough to make it profitable in North America.

    Leah: At one point during his argument with Zimmer, he clearly says, “I’m an artist.” It refers to his belief that silent cinema is true art and talkies were just a gimmick, an opinion far from unique in the late 20s. And given that plenty of actors with accents did just fine in the early days of sound film–most pertinently Maurice Chevalier–it’s pretty obvious that his accent was not the real issue here.

  35. David Poland says:

    The Oscar campaign is expensive, but the movie was dirt cheap by US standards. Given the international, the film is already in profit. And if it wins Best Picture, it will likely get to $50m, it’s post-theatrical numbers will blow up and it will be massively successful financially.

    And still, the inability of TWC to expand the film, which has to stem from concerns about not getting good numbers, is a legitimate issue… even if JSP is – shocker – wildly over-dramatizing it.

  36. yancyskancy says:

    cad: I still say the accent issue should’ve been addressed in the early going. In 1927/28, it was widely assumed that a heavily accented performer would be unlikely to make the transition to sound successfully. And that’s the way it generally turned out. Chevalier’s success is perhaps the exception that proves the rule.

    Hell, I would’ve been satisfied if the studio head had said, “You know, George, your accent is heavy, but it’s charming; you can still be a successful leading man with a little coaching. Dames go nuts for a French accent.” I would’ve also been satisfied if they had left out George’s line of sound dialogue at the end. In other words, either make the accent an issue or don’t. They seem to be trying to have it both ways — it’s not an issue until that one damn line at the end. Maybe this shouldn’t drive me nuts, but it does.

  37. JS Partisan says:

    Ang, the amount of hubris you have on a blog is why you had a guy who runs another website come to this blog, and refer to you as an asshole. I know how it works but seriously, David agrees with me (even if he couldn’t help himself but insult me even if it’s an issue he has brought up himself on twitter) on this point. If you are going to give me shit, then give it to him as well.

    What you fail to understand, that you can’t even tell when you are being a mark for a movie. Seriously, you are a mark for The Arist, that’s all good and fine, but it’s a reasonable question to ask about the Academy rewarding a movie that’s lagging behind EL&IC.

    The fact that David thinks it will have success post-theatrically his hilarious. This movie will be lucky to succeed anywhere in this country because who in the hell goes up to redbox and goes; “I want to rent ‘The Artist’ tonight over some other film that has dialogue in it?” You folks are assuming that our taste runs things and it does not.

    This movie is lucky to get to 45m, it’s lucky if it’s BD sells as well as Midnight in Paris, and it’s lucky if the Help doesn’t sneak up and beat it’s ass. I am glad you folks live in a bubble but it’s a limited bubble, and doesn’t quite take in effect the rest of the country.

  38. leahnz says:

    “Leah: At one point during his argument with Zimmer, he clearly says, “I’m an artist.” It refers to his belief that silent cinema is true art and talkies were just a gimmick”

    so…you and i are on the exact same page then, cadavra
    (i thought the ‘artist’ statement was in the movie somewhere but i’ve only seen it once and couldn’t remember where exactly, but obviously it formed the basis for my theory as per my previous comment to yancy, which jives exactly with yours here. yeah)

    “Agreed, Descendants major disappointment”

    yay jennab, thank christ

    now if only somebody could get that ‘greg feith’ biopic with clooney going…(not a lot of ‘air crash investigation’ watchers here i guess huh) my sarcasm knows no bounds

  39. anghus says:

    io, i have no idea what that first paragraph means. stay on topic.

    it’s obvious you’ve written off the artist and think that the love it’s getting is undeserved.

    what’s weird is when you hear the opinions of people who work in this industry and talk about the success of the artist, no matter how small, as being bullshit because it doesn’t fit into the very obtuse view you have of cinema.

    yes, the artist is a bomb. yes, green lantern is an exceptional movie. yes, everyone thinks i’m an asshole. and yes you have a better fundamental understanding of the movie business than DP or anyone else.

    There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, even if it’s contrary to conventional wisdom. But sometimes you have to be smart enough to realize that there are people with a better understanding and perspective on a subject.

    Being smart is sometimes realizing that there are smarter people out there and ceding to their wisdom. And i’m not referring to myself. I’m referring to those who realize a silent film on a shoestring budget getting lots of awards and ending up between $40 and $50 million in the U.S. is an achievement.

    That’s not being a mark for a movie. Personally i’d be fine with the artist winning best picture. I’d also be fine with War Horse, Hugo, or Midnight in Paris. Acknowledging something like that doesn’t make you a shill.

    This isn’t about people loving the artist and you not liking it. It’s about an inability to grasp the success of a film because you don’t see the value of it. And somehow it’s ‘success’ is dependent on it making 100 million dollars domestic and entering the cultural lexicon.

    There are levels IO.

  40. movieman says:

    I’m surprised to hear that so many people had an issue with Dujardin’s thick French accent in his only line of dialogue. For me the accent didn’t really factor into…well, pretty much anything.
    My only problem with the film–which, overall, I think is a wonderfully affectionate, witty pastiche–is the somewhat truncated ending. I think they could have played up George’s big “comeback” a little more (maybe a shot of him and the pup taking bows at the premiere?) for (emotionally) cathartic effect.
    Also, ****SPOILER ALERT****the cutting at the tail end of the “suicide” scene was a tad clumsy, no? Considering how large a role Uggie plays in the film, it almost felt like a cheat not to have a doggy reaction shot. From the way it’s edited, you could actually believe the dog was hit by a ricocheting bullet and, gulp, died. (And Uggie is barely glimpsed in the cutaways to John Goodman during the climactic dance sequence.)

  41. JS Partisan says:

    Ang, until you can respect me enough to use my current name, there’s no need to respond to you except with this: nothing you wrote has anything to do with what I wrote. Levels? I hate to break it to you genius, but a frontrunner should be displayed as a frontrunner. The Artist is basically sitting on it’s hands and that’s weird.

  42. anghus says:

    I dont think his accent was the reason he didnt want to do talkies.

    Unless the writer or director tells me otherwise, im going to chalk it up to being nothing more than a nod to the audience. The whole movie you think hes an American actor and when audio is brought into the equation you realize hes French. That was not the motivation for his aversion to the talkies.

    Interesting take, but I think its not anywhere near accurate.

  43. anghus says:

    Yes. The Weinsteins are sitting on their hands. Thats what theyre known for. Sitting around and doing nothing.

    Astute observation.

  44. JS Partisan says:

    Yeah you keep missing the point. Real big picture thinking you got there. Now go keep the kids of your lawn.

  45. yancyskancy says:

    This ARTIST discussion is going to drive me insane. Movieman, I can’t believe that people DON’T have an issue with the accent. If the accent is NOT his motivation for his avoidance of talkies, then why in the world add that line at the end?. This little “nod,” as anghus calls it, may be cute but it muddies everything that came before. Am I really the only person who thought, “Wait, if George has this accent, why didn’t it come up before — since this is, after all, a movie about the transition to sound? They show his co-star getting her voice tested for sound, but never even mention HIS voice until this throwaway bit at the end? Bullshit.”

    Would my objection be clearer if George had a speech impediment instead of an accent? If you’d been watching this thing for a hour and a half thinking it was all about his artistic objections to sound, and then at the very end he said, out loud, “Maybe thound thinema doethn’t thuck after all,” wouldn’t you call bullshit?

  46. anghus says:

    i’m stunned that so many people think the french accent at the end is some kind of reveal. He was French. It’s interesting. The audience is surprised. One last bit of showmanship from Dujardin and a wink to the audience.

    I do like the idea of him having a lisp. That would have been interesting. TWC should greenlight The Artist’s Speech immediately. Guaranteed to win at least five Oscars.

  47. yancyskancy says:

    “i’m stunned that so many people think the french accent at the end is some kind of reveal. He was French.”

    Dude, of course it’s a reveal. It’s a reveal that he has a French accent. Unless I missed something, that’s the first we are told that he’s French. I believe his surname (Valentin) is Spanish or Italian. Of course we all know he’s being played by Jean Dujardin, a French actor, but that’s beside the point.

    I’M stunned that no one thinks it’s bad writing to have a movie that’s ABOUT an actor during the transition to sound and NOT address the fact that he has a heavy accent until a “wink to the audience” at the very end.

    I think I’ve officially beaten this horse to death. I’m either not making myself clear, I’m misremembering the film, or I’ve lost my mind. Or all three.

  48. cadavra says:

    “This movie will be lucky to succeed anywhere in this country because who in the hell goes up to redbox and goes; “I want to rent ‘The Artist’ tonight over some other film that has dialogue in it?” You folks are assuming that our taste runs things and it does not. This movie is lucky to get to 45m, it’s lucky if it’s BD sells as well as Midnight in Paris, and it’s lucky if the Help doesn’t sneak up and beat it’s ass.”

    And right here, ladies and gentlemen, is Exhibit A why we get all those wretched sequels, remakes, and crap based on toys, comic books and video games.

  49. Paul D/Stella says:

    $20 million and counting seems pretty good for a B&W silent film. Did it ever really seem like something that would break out and make more than $100 million? Is it fair to label it some kind of failure or underachievement for not making more than it has despite great reviews and Oscar nominations?

  50. spassky says:

    Dujardin is Reaganing right now.

  51. leahnz says:

    well yancy, fwiw i totally get what you’re saying and i do think it’s a flaw of the movie, it just doesn’t bother me much. but i personally like seeing other people pack a sad about stuff that annoys them, let it all out.

  52. yancyskancy says:

    Thanks, leah. I think I got it all out now. Actually, I don’t think the accent thing would’ve bothered me either if I had thought the rest of the movie was great.

  53. LYT says:

    So I get this straight:

    There is an argument being made that a reveal like the accent wouldn’t be realistic…in the context of a movie where a dog practically talks like Lassie-to-Timmy with a police officer, and the entire world is silent and black and white (as seen by his literalized dream).

    Oh yeah, and he actually sees a gang of miniature tribesmen attacking him on a bar at one point.

    Realism is not something this movie has. Even within its own rules, it cheats – no silent movie would be edited as quickly or utilize as many moving camera shots.

    Calling it unrealistic is like calling Cabinet of Dr. Caligari unrealistic…yes, but so what?

  54. JS Partisan says:

    Cad, seriously, that’s such a bullshit answer. Good lord, you should be fucking ashamed of yourself for being so absolute ly curmudgeonly with that response. Shameful, absolutely fucking shameful for no other reason than you assuming that the Artist is better than Hugo or any of those other nominees, that people have actually gone and seen!

    Paul, when it’s an Oscar frontrunner, yes. This has been the movie since Thanksgiving and it’s not taken off. Hell, if you want to be happy about it’s 20m, go right ahead, but NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT! They had that shit going with Uggie for three minutes and then that stopped, because no one outside of folks in the OSCARS BUBBLE knew who in the fuck Uggie is!

    This is like the quietest Oscar frontrunner that I can remember, and that’s freaking weird. Not as weird as giving a Frenchman an award over Brad Pitt, but weird nonetheless.

  55. yancyskancy says:

    Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

    The basics of the story seem intended to be “real” to me. It’s not ALICE IN WONDERLAND or something. Sure, its style is mostly homage to the silent era, but the setting is “realistic” in the sense that it presents a Hollywood that we recognize from other films set in that real time and place. None of the characters have magic powers, and Uggie’s talents are in the tradition of Asta or Lassie — if he suddenly started flying or writing “HELP” on the sidewalk, I might feel differently.

    Again, it’s a movie ABOUT the transition to sound that neglects to mention the star’s accent until a throwaway bit at the end. To me, it plays as a lame joke, not a surreal touch. It’s bad writing because it has no apparent purpose, and no effect other than to raise retroactive questions about the plot. Some might say its purpose is to get a laugh — but did anyone actually laugh at it? Perhaps its purpose is to reveal that George was lying about his reasons for avoiding sound — but none of us seem to believe that (probably because we can see it makes no logical sense given what’s come before).

    In all this back and forth, I don’t think anyone has said why they think the line is there. And I don’t mean why you don’t mind it, or why it doesn’t bother you. Is it there simply because that entire last scene has sound, and George needed a line? If so, why the accent? — And please, the answer isn’t “Because he’s French.” Why the accent ONLY at that moment?

  56. cadavra says:

    JS: Actually, I thought HUGO was the best movie of the year. Mebbe the last three years.

    If you think what I wrote is curmudgeonly, so be it, but considering how much venting goes on at almost every movie site on the internet about how risk-averse and brain-dead movies have become, to berate a movie largely because it DOES take a risk–several, in fact–is counter-productive in the extreme. Plus as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s still wa-a-ay too early to pass final judgment on its box office. And even if it only hits $40 million, it will still be the fourth-largest-grossing “subtitled” movie of all time, and the first to hit that plateau in eight years (the top three are two martial arts films–CROUCHING TIGER and HERO–and the Benigni atrocity).

  57. yancyskancy says:

    Just one more quick punch to the dead horse:

    Jim Emerson, on his Scanners blog, also wondered why George has a heavy French accent at the end of THE ARTIST. He linked to an interview Dujardin did with Newsweek last year, in which he responds to the fact that many viewers (not just ME, praise Jesus!) have wondered if the accent is supposed to suggest the real reason for George’s avoidance of sound films. He says that neither he nor the director even thought of that during production. Though it’s difficult to be sure because of Dujardin’s imperfect English, I think he also says they tried to change it to an American accent in post, but it didn’t work out. He also says he considered George to be French, but Hazanavicius considered him American.

    This suggests that I was at least correct to assume that Hazanavicius didn’t think the issue through at all. Luckily for him, it seems most people have been so charmed by the film they either don’t care or consider it a nitpick.

    Here’s the Dujardin link:

  58. peter wolf says:

    Yes, the Leno appearence was hysterical. The audience loved it, especially the dance routines. Now that he’s got the Oscar and just about every other award that’s available (Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, etc), I hope he comes back soon. By the way, check out his appearence on Jimmy Kimmel (?) show where he impersonates Robert DeNiro.

  59. Alby says:

    In case anyone bothers about the “accent” issue again – I too have kept sleepless nights over it, and it’s not until reading through the backlog of comments here, that I realized thusly:

    A rational, first-instinct reaction would be terribly shoddy, incoherent plotting versus execution on director’s part.

    However, a more “creative”, out-of-the-box approach, which may explain a small number of persistent believers in The Artist’s charms going far beyond a frothy surface, is that it is multiple mirrors within mirrors disguised as a simple, classy toy tossed after a brief tinkering on Christmas morning. This explains the heated debates on its merits hinged on authenticity or lack of.

    If authenticity is being toyed with so that both views co-exist simultaneously (fans love it for the MODERN illusion of “faithful throwback”, only to be countered by critics shooting every aspect down to flawed, cheap or ignorant copies of “true, archaic originals”), then immediately you can’t consider the film given its range of diverse responses, to be only one or the other.

    We can consider what director & Dujardin claimed as their intentions, but because they decidedly chose the non-Guy Maddin route to appeal to audiences with manipulation, prodding, ingratiating etc., the film is less theirs alone than shared across “the world” they _eagerly anticipated_. That is, French viewers heard an embarrassingly thick French accent that’s a blight on an attempt to successfully hoodwink Hollywood perspective by “playing to” their cherished archetype. Similarly, English-speaking ears on hearing the unmistakable French accent, would react to it differently depending how their personal tolerance are for the way accents affect their ability to relate and thereby legitimize a “movie star” to claim as “their own”. (i.e. Chevalier and Boyer can be considered everywhere from “part of our Hollywood history proper, to suave foreigners on the sideline we allowed to be among us.)

    Sorry to be long-winded, but I think this serves as how I’ll take the accent issue: That it ultimately (by intention or “subconscious” choice so natural to a director whose career is REPLETE with pastiche-parodies) emphasizes its multiple mirrors of self-reflexivity which INCLUDES its viewers.

    Valentin’s accent isn’t an issue (could be, this is left vague & we can justify it with any number of historical examples: of silent stars ruined by unsuitable voice, personal ruination of marriage/money/alcohol, resistance to change, simple decline in popularity, inability to compete in new form) when he spoke to the movie’s press, fans, etc. But it became an issue when WE heard him, the same way sound alarmed him during his sleep. In both parallels, sound is a REVEAL only when the dream is on the brink of waking up (i.e. movie ending.)

    Essentially, the movie is conscious of us watching people making and watching movies within itself, and it is far from a self-contained world (despite the deceptive appearance of “OMG it looks right out of 1927!”), but a very 2010s exercise – just look at how many pairs of eyes are all gazing at Valentin going down the quicksand scene, including our own, and how this makes the humor in the title cards work.

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