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berenice bejo, james cromwell, jean dujardin, the artist

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Old 30th Jan 2012, 17:12   #1
ono no komachi
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Default The Artist

The Artist is the story of George Valentin, a star of the silent screen played by Jean Dujardin, and his dog. George is, it seems, at the top of his game, bewitching critics and moviegoers alike with his elegant pencil moustache, immaculate evening suits and cute canine sidekick. He's beguiled into assisting young ingenue Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who has come to his attention by inadvertently breaking through a cordon intended to protect Valentin from his adoring fans and managing to get her photo taken with him.

She gets a job as an extra on one of his movies. Her star is in the ascendant, it seems, and when talkies arrive she becomes part of the new vanguard while Valentin desperately tries to cling to the medium that has made him such a success; attempting to finance his own project and becoming destitute and divorced in the process.

The irony, of course, is that this is a tale told essentially in the medium whose decline it describes. And it does so to good effect, drawing the audience in and getting them to engage with the characters (not that this audience member needed much drawing-in in order to engage with a cute dog.) And I say this as one who really, really appreciates a great talkative script. Sorkinesque dialogue is music to my ears. I think the point at which I was won over was a clever scene illustrating Valentin's realisation that movies with a 'real' soundtrack are the way of the future (I wouldn't want to say too much in case of spoilers.) Thereafter I was swept along with the charm and delightful visuals that the film has in abundance.

As you might expect, there's not a huge amount of room for subtlety, and I did roll my eyes rather when Valentin's wife says to him "George, we need to talk. Why do you refuse to talk?" but the performances are nicely tongue-in-cheek without descending into self-parody. James Cromwell was particularly scene-stealing as Valentin's loyal retainer (the non-canine one, obv.)

I'm not saying I'd welcome a return to silent movies in a wholesale way, but this was a very diverting look at (the end of) their era. And did I mention the cute dog?

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Old 30th Jan 2012, 17:13   #2
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Default Re: The Artist

I am seeing this in a couple of hours...
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Old 31st Jan 2012, 9:12   #3
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Default Re: The Artist

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, a.
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Old 31st Jan 2012, 12:41   #4
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I'll head this up with a confession; I fell asleep about half way through. Not for long, but I was fighting the drooping eyelids through the long middle section, where Peppy's star rises and George's fades and we shift back and forth to see their contrasting stories play out.

The thing is, I really was on side, but came away very disappointed indeed. The plus points far outweigh the bad, but it isn't as earth-shattering as I'd hoped, and I felt somewhat let down.

That sounds terribly churlish. But, well, the movie is so keen for you to follow it - it winks at you and waves and gives you a cheeky grin - it knows you know, and it knows you know it knows - that you go along willingly and trundle along in its wake not just hoping, but expecting to be entertained. Because, the man said so!

Well, he didn't say, but you know what I mean.

And yes, for the most part it works, but it doesn't always work, and there are some long stretches where the tempo drops and the dog (Uggy, a very cute Jack Russell) just doesn't cut it. He's a great safety net, comedically, but he's no Eddie from Frasier. And the big finish is lovely and upbeat and full of smiles, but it's not the massive Busby Berkeley blast-'em-outta-their-seats number I needed it to be. It's good, I love a bit of precision tap and all that, but I couldn't help but feel a bit shortchanged.



The plus points, though are genuinely great. Jean DuJardin has a killer smile, and an even killerer despondent look, down to his right, his square jaw cutting an aesthetic that must have had the production team thanking their lucky stars. He is also a consummate physical comedian and does all the moves and tricks and flicks to perfection. The real star, though, is Berenice Bejo (above) who is simply radiant. Gamine, glowing, gracious, gorgeous, she makes the screen sing, not a bad thing in a silent movie. She's completely wonderful.

The Artist looks the business, it holds the camera at a knowing distance in every frame, it knows its subject to perfection. Check out George's face, position, and the retreating pan at 1'40" in the trailer:



And I really wanted to cast 5 red stars at it without a second thought, but I can't. As happy and as bouncy as the ending is, it isn't the ending I wanted, or the ending that the thing deserves, or even thinks it deserves.

, sometimes a , and Bejo gets a
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Old 1st Feb 2012, 11:23   #5
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Default Re: The Artist

I must admit, I went expecting something fluffy and light rather than a great masterpiece, and had no illusions about my modern tendencies to get restive without a load of snappy dialogue. Low expectations always help, don't they?

The staircase scenes were good, though.
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Old 1st Feb 2012, 11:46   #6
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Yes, I hadn't thought about that. People really knew how to ascend and descend stairs in those days, and how to talk on them too. That's a good call.
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Old 1st Feb 2012, 13:28   #7
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Default Re: The Artist

I'd really like to see this. Mr Lucoid, however, doesn't seem too keen. Mind you, he didn't used to be keen on subtitles (we're now four episodes into The Killing) or peas (he now eats them voluntarily), so I'm sure we'll get there eventually.
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Old 3rd Mar 2012, 1:11   #8
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Default Re: The Artist

I very much enjoyed The Artist. I confess that, like amner, I became a little drowsy in the middle, but it was a great concept, and pointed up a couple of things to me:

o Dialogue is very often unnecessary, yet modern (particularly tv) movies seem to be keen on filling every moment with chat. Chat, I might say, that is very often incoherent. I often bless the subtitles and the rewind facility on my Sky+ box. Young American women very often gabble very badly, but the disease has spread to UK crime movies. Directors seem to think it's more real. In contrast, I today watched Witness for the Prosecution (1957) in which not a single word was lost.

o The Artist was not a very realistic 1920s silent movie in itself. Two factors were missing. The extreme 'mugging' (exaggerated facial and whole-body expressions of shock, horror, surprise, adoration - as in Mr Bean) present in all the old movies was happily absent. And the terrible static camera syndrome (due to the enormous weight of early cine cameras) was replaced, mostly, with modern tracking, zooming and smooth handheld camera work. Homage was paid to the close-up with clearly readable lips, but it was observably modern in framing, movement and editing.

Recommended , however. Don't miss it, because no-one can do it and get away with it again for a generation or so.
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Old 3rd Mar 2012, 17:33   #9
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Default Re: The Artist

Surely I can't be the only person around here who has seen this movie?
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Old 4th Mar 2012, 12:21   #10
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Default Re: The Artist

Nope.
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