Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Artist (2011)

The lives of George Valentin and Peppy Miller cross, as one descends into obscurity from stardom and the other embraces the new technology of talkies to become a star.

I believe this deserves its spot on the Top 250. The Artist is beautifully made, the score by Ludovic Bource is authentic, light in places, playful but also deep and emotional. I will admit I had not came across any of his work prior to this movie, but I hope he goes on to a great many movies, as he was awarded Breakout Composer of the Year 2011.

There is some controversy about his use of the Vertigo score, but the Director Michel Hazanavicius has stated in defence of the use of the Vertigo score,

"'The Artist' was made as a love letter to cinema, and grew out of my (and all of my cast and crew's) admiration and respect for movies throughout history," Hazanavicius responded in a statement. "It was inspired by the work of Hitchcock, (Fritz) Lang, (John) Ford, (Ernst) Lubitsch, (F.W.) Murnau and (Billy) Wilder. I love Bernard Herrmann and his music has been used in many different films and I'm very pleased to have it in mine. I respect Kim Novak greatly, and I'm sorry to hear she disagrees."

I guess its like how you borrow from family, you never steal. (Unless you are some inbred on the Jeremy Kyle Show with little to no teeth...) The music is used with respect and love of film, it's a compliment to it.

On my first viewing of this, I honestly didn't know what to expect. I had somehow convinced my sister to go along to see it, without giving her any details, knowing she would have said no if she knew it was 1. Black and White. and 2. A silent movie.

But big surprise, she loved it. As did I.

Paraphrasing her... she loved it because its an old style movie but made today, so the actors actually know how to act. When he's "mugging" to the camera in the movies within movie, its self aware, Jean Dujardin is aware that he is overacting as George Valentin within the movie in the movie.

I simply fell for George Valentin in much the same way I love Gene Kelly.

Yes, I went through a phase as a teen when I watched a lot of 1930s/40s/50s Hollywood musicals. Yeah I'm so uncool and I'm cool with that.

Both men have a gracefulness to them, especially in the way they dance. I find it very masculine, very athletic and that's partly down to even the clothing Gene Kelly chose to wear. He would dress like a regular guy but smart. Agree or disagree, I think he's a mighty fine man.

George Valentin is also such a masculine figure to me, yet he is his own tragic downfall. His stubbornness, his inability to see the new technology of "talkies" as a way to expand cinema. His unwillingness to embrace change. All factors in his descent, which is rather beautifully shown around 36 minutes into the movie in a scene where George Valentin runs into Peppy Miller. This scene is pure show don't tell, heck the whole film is show don't tell. this staircase is in the central atrium of the Bradbury Building located at 304 South Broadway, Los Angeles, California. Dozens of movies, TV shows, and music videos have been filmed there. Most notably, the interior and exterior were featured prominently in 'Blade Runner'. So even the use of this location has Hollywood engrained into it.

But boy that dance scene which is said to have taken 5 months of rehearsal  in the same studio Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds used for 'Singin' in the Rain'. "It was really hard," remembers Bérénice Bejo, "and even now when I look at the movie I can't believe how fast we're doing it. Sometimes it's like my feet still hurt."

It's authenticity is down to how the movie is shot in 1.33:1 ratio because as the director Michel Hazanavicius states it gives the actors "a presence, a power, a strength. They occupy all the space of the screen.", using only shots that could have been used back between 1927-1932 so there is no zoom shots and the wipes used between scenes are also authentic.

The Artist was shot with 22 FPS, so when it is played at the standard 24 FPS, the actors movement becomes faster, not so noticeable but it's effective. This was used to mirror how most silent films were shot with 14 to 24 FPS, which makes many of these films appear "faster" in motion when played on modern projection equipment at 24 FPS.

The titles and credits being fashioned after movies in the 20s and 30s also add to its reallness of being a silent movie.

There's a scene where George Valentin is watching on a home projector one of his movies, where he plays a swashbuckler. The movie is in fact 'The Mark of Zorro' but instead of Douglas Fairbanks, our protagonist is substituted for him.

In short, heh, this is made with love for it's subject, and is an emotional character study and romantic piece. Please if you let the black and whiteness or the silentness of this put you off in any way...don't, recommended hewl yeah! :D

Rating - 6 Baby!

Hasta Luego


  1. I honestly thought I was going to hate this film when I sat down in the theater. Of course I ended up loving it and wanting to buy Uggie.

    I saw you had recently joined the Lamb so I wanted to stop by and say hello and welcome aboard.

  2. Thanks for the welcome, so great to be a part of the LAMB :D