2020 Blind Spot Series: The Artist (2011)

Although I didn't follow award season nearly as much as I do now, waking up on February 26, 2012, to the news of The Artist winning Best Picture — along with Best Director and Best Actor — was a shock to me. I just couldn't believe they awarded a black-and-white silent film and I never even bothered watching it. Since I'm no longer the shallow 18-year-old I was then and I'm a bit obsessed with watching Best Picture winners and nominees, I figured I'd pick it as my Blind Spot for the month of February.

Hollywood(land), 1927. While attending the premiere of his newest action-adventure film, "The Russian Affair", famous silent actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) accidentally bumps into a female fan who reacts to the accident by kissing him on the cheek, a gesture that ends up on the front page of Variety the next day.

As we soon learn, the young woman's name is Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), and she is an aspiring actress who is soon cast as a dancer for a movie starring Valentin himself. There's immediately great chemistry between the two of them and, with little guidance from Valentin, Peppy slowly rises in the industry. 

Two years later, when Kinograph Studios boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) announces the transition to talking movies, Valentin, who refuses to change up his act, watches his career sink as Peggy becomes the hottest name in town. 

The Artist's isn't the most refreshing nor original of stories as it borrows many, most of its elements from classic films such as Sunset Boulevard, Singin' in the Rain and A Star Is Born. The actual problem, however, is the execution. While I loved the fact that the plot conveys at the same time ingenuity and love for an era of cinema that is long gone, the story is overall quite bland, tedious and unexciting. It unfolds too slowly and is stretched out too far. It is predictable as it's the story of a famous performer eventually surpassed by his protégé. It just doesn't have that something that makes it stand out; on the contrary, it feels like a copycat. 

The romance between Valentin and Peppy is pretty sappy, doesn't really go anywhere and, on Peppy's side, it comes across more like an obsession than love — she is basically a stalker fangirl who is in love with the image of this man and his success rather than the man himself. But at least Dujardin and Bejo have great on-screen chemistry which makes the romance very believable. 

And that brings me to positive aspects of The Artist, the first one being Jean Dujardin's performance which was rightfully awarded an Oscar. The glue that holds the film together, Dujardin is remarkable as George Valentin and plays the role with such charm he comes across as incredibly likeable lead, one you root for and keeps you watching the film. He does a wonderful job when it comes to delivering Valentin's feelings through body language and facial expressions, and he manages to slip in a little smile even when the character is sad and make it feel appropriate.

The supporting cast also does a good job, the standouts being Bérénice Bejo who gives a sassy and charming performance as the enthusiastic Peppy Miller, and John Goodman who blesses the film with his great presence and comic style. Worth of a mention is also Valentin's adorable and lovable dog.

Another positive is the dream sequence. Shortly after he dismisses talkies, Valentin is in his dressing room and all of a sudden he starts to hear sounds — his glass rattles; he starts moving objects and they all make a sound; he leaves the dressing room and everyone is either talking or laughing. Sounds have taken over his silent world but he himself can't speak. He keeps screaming and screaming but there's not a single sound coming from him. And then he wakes up. How many times have we had that kind of dream? When you scream but have no voice? Well, in here it's brilliantly used to portray Valentin's fears.

The Artist also has beautiful black-and-white cinematography and a subtle musical score that fits very well.

Ultimately though the film didn't win my heart.

10 comments :

  1. Ricordo che all'epoca lo adorai... ma si sa che sono un vecchio nostalgico! ;)
    scherzi a parte, capisco il tuo giudizio: in effetti è un film furbetto e non certo particolarmente innovativo, ma è girato davvero bene e con ottimi attori. Forse un esercizio di stile, ma di gran classe.

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    1. È davvero ben fatto però resta il fatto che è Oscar bait all'ennesima potenza.

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  2. While it wasn't my choice as Best Picture, I still think it's a fun film as it did at least revive the idea of the silent film and was a great tribute to the cinema of the past. Plus, how can anyone not love Jean Dujardin?

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    1. I saw him here for the first time and I loved him. I'm really interested in checking out more of his work.

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  3. You and I fell about the same place. I love tap dancing and thought that part would win me over but I was just bored by this. I was not crazy about the Oscars it won.

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  4. Still haven't finished it, saw 30 minutes, it's been almost 10 years, and.... honestly, don't plan to. As you said, it doesn't feel original story wise and not being a fan of classics, I wouldn't love the way the story is told. :(

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  5. I gotta admit I just love the movie. It captures so much from the silent era with a striking authenticity. And I'm with you, Dujardin is remarkable. He's a great actor but it's crazy how perfectly fit he is for this part.

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