The Artist

Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, John Gilbert, Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks are smiling. This audacious film is a silent movie in black and white, with intertitles for dialogue! This PG-13 homage to early Hollywood absolutely proves that Talkies did NOT invent drama, pathos, comedy or romance; we experience all of these and more, yet only hear a handful of words spoken in the entire film. (I just love movies about movies!)

Did you see the "OSS 117" pastiches inspired by the "James Bond" films? If so, you can easily picture the hilarious Jean Dujardin as a 1920s silent screen superstar who goes into a tailspin with the advent of the Talkies. Dujardin is a master of the sendup, the spoof, the satirical take- off on vanity, ego and self-satisfaction, so his parody of Douglas Fair- banks is spot on! As are his versions of Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain," and Fred Astaire in anything with Ginger Rogers. If you doubt me, watch the attached trailer.

In a second viewing, I was even more impressed, look for long single- take scenes: note the one in the star's dressing room when the starlet finds herself alone; watch the lengthy dance sequence a la Astaire, two cuts, MAX! Note the "Hollywoodland" sign on the hillside. That was the original Hollywood sign, it was a real estate advertisement and that was when I knew they would try for verisimilitude. I've ordered the DVD because this can hold up under repeated viewings. In the 84th Annual Academy Awards (in which it won numerous awards) it was revealed that of all the nominated films, this French film is the only one shot entirely in the Hollywood area!

These actors make it work:
  • Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor award at Cannes for this role. He starts out as such a "STAR" that you are surprised when you see a more human side.
  • Bérénice Bejo is transcendent as a spunky Debbie Reynolds-type character in this little show-biz romp. Of course they meet cute and then, shades of "A Star is Born," their lives reverse as her fortunes soar and his plummet.
  • A clever Jack Russell Terrier promptly keels over when a finger is suddenly pointed at him, but runs for help when the house is on fire.
  • Penelope Ann Miller is our hero's disenchanted wife.
  • John Goodman with cigar at full chomp, runs a studio and caters to temperamental stars.
  • James Cromwell is our hero's faithful chauffeur and stalwart friend.
  • Missi Pyle does a blonde bimbo reminiscent of Lina Lamont in "Singin'...," only we never hear this one's voice... Whew!
Writer/Director Michel Hazanavicius has done only French films in the past, but with printed dialogue on those intertitles, this film could be in any language. (Please remember, both "homage" and "cliché" are French!) Our Seattle International Film Festival screening audience could see that most of the words the actors mouthed were English...except that terrific dog...I'm pretty sure he was barking in French.
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Here is a link to a preview:
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