Friday, January 13, 2012
My review of "The Artist"
First of all, I have to confess. I am a fan of Michel Hazanavicius. Ans especially when he's paired with Jean Dujardin. Both the OSS117 movies are very good comedies that I have watched numerous times. They easily rise above the glut of French comedies by the talent of both director and leading actor.
Combine my love for the pair, plus the promised 30s styling of the movie, and I had no choice but to see „The Artist“. And I'm glad I did. Short review : It is a must see.
Yes, it is a comedy. There are lots of laugh out loud moments. But it's a lot more than that. It has that very delicate balance of comedy and human drama that only French directors seem to manage. And yes, it may have been done in Hollywood, it may have big Hollywood stars, it may be fashioned on 30s Hollywood movies, but don't be mistaken, this is a French movie. It has all the quirkiness and subtlety of Michel Hazanavicius' previous movies. The relationship between the two main characters (Peppy and George) is a lot more complex that the simplistic story might suggest. It is the sort of human stories Hollywood simply cannot do.
So, it is really a 30s movie? Yes and no. Yes, it is in black and white. Yes it is shot in the format of the time. But it has been shot in HD, and it shows. Hazanavicius has smartly avoided degrading the picture quality in the name of realism, and as the movie develops, you realise it is an homage to the 30s. Some of the shots really have a 30s feeling (I'm thinking of a fantastic panoramic shot on a set of stairs) whereas others could not have been shot at the time (the scene where Peppy and George fall in love is more reminiscent of a 50s movie). Moreover, this is a story of the fall of a man, and the rise of a woman. Peppy is the strong character, and wants to help George as best as she can. Definitely not a 30s premise.
The movie plays in the hands of Jean Dujardin, who has always been a very physical, over the top actor, and in „The Artist“ he's true to form, without going overboard. But Berenice Bejo is the revelation of the movie. Her performance is more contained, more reserved than Dujardin's, but she manages to convey more emotions, and builds a more complex character than George Valentin. In the end you can see that both Bejo and Dujardin work very well together, as they did in „OSS117 : Cairo, nest of spies“'. There is certainly chemistry between those two.
„The artist“ is a movie to see. Even if you're not familiar with the movies of Michel Hazanavicius, there is a lot there to appreciate. This is a complex, feelgood movie. In the cinema, people applauded at the end. As I imagine people did in the 30s. I was one of them. Because it manages to capture all the simplicity and power of a movie of the era, and at the same time, it doesn't feel or look dated, quite a feat for a silent (mostly) movie in black and white. But mostly, I applauded because it is something special, it is unique. I really hope it's going to stay that way.
And the reason why George Valentin can't do talkies is plain hilarious. Hazanavicius humor until the end!