The Artist

Film, Comedy
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The Artist
Jean Durjadin and Brnice Bejo in The Artist
Jean Dujardin and Brnice Bejo in The Artist
Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin are well known in France for their James Bond spoofs, the ‘OSS 117’ films. Now they hop across the pond to 1920s California for a loving – and silent – recreation of Hollywood on the verge of sound. ‘The Artist’ is shot in exactly the same speechless, monochrome style as the movies in which our tragic hero, actor George Valentin (Dujardin), employs a canny arched eyebrow or breaks out into a rip-roaring tap-dancing routine to woo his adoring audience.

It’s 1927, Valentin is a star, but, oh no, is that the sound of… sound, on the horizon? Valentin is an insufferable ham. He laps up the adoration at a premiere, ignoring his co-stars and hogging the stage with a trusty performing dog (a constant, cute presence in the film). His domestic life is shaky, and his wife isn’t impressed when he’s snapped outside the premiere with an unknown woman and they both appear on the cover of Variety. The woman is young, beautiful Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who turns up as an extra on George’s next picture, ‘The German Affair’.

As they fall for each other, the sound age begins and Kinograph Studios sacks Valentin and contracts Miller as its star. George’s downfall – he loses his house, wife and servant (James Cromwell) – really begins when ‘Tears of Love’, his first picture as a producer-director-star, bombs on the same day that Miller’s debut becomes a hit. Will Valentin pick himself up, or is he destined to become a relic of the silent era and, cruelty of cruelties, a victim of the Wall Street Crash to boot?

The real pleasure of ‘The Artist’ is that Hazanavicius employs all the tricks and tics of silent cinema with wisdom, care and all the emotional and musical rhythm of the best of the films he emulates. It’s a movie about cinema that has a heart: it moves between funny and sad and turns the dawn of the sound age into a personal tragedy, expressed as silent melodrama. Its nostalgia is instructive: a scene of Miller and Valentin tap-dancing either side of a screen reminds us how visually inventive early sound films could be, and a scene of Valentin talking to a policeman that doesn’t have title cards reminds us that good silent films also demanded imagination from the viewer. It’s a gentle call to arms aimed at modern cinema.

Feature-length, knowing recreations of past genres can often be tiresome after the initial novelty has worn off, and yet ‘The Artist’ manages to keep up the same level of charm as its lead actor, Dujardin, throughout. Best of all, ‘The Artist’ never feels like a parody or a good idea that becomes laborious in the execution. It’s lovingly corny, great fun, good-looking and respectful. Silence being silence, you wouldn’t know it’s essentially a French enterprise – especially with John Goodman playing a big-shot producer – although Hazanavicius offers a witty nod to the film’s provenance in its final scene, reminding us that, yes, so many of the great silent Hollywood films were made by Europeans who crossed the Atlantic.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday December 30 2011
Duration: 100 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Penelope Ann Miller
Jean Dujardin
John Goodman
Missi Pyle
James Cromwell

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:23
  • 4 star:11
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:8
  • 1 star:0
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Thoroughly enjoyed it. Nice refreshing silent movie. Loved Dujardin and his expressive face! Loved the dog too. Deserved all the awards!

The film was tedious and predictable. Yes, it was charming, but a film needs more than that to be a great movie. I guess I've been spoiled by watching the great silent films of the past and the wonderful actors, such as Harold Lloyd. This film was greatly overrated.

The most boring, pretencious movie I have ever been unfortunate enough to view. This is the second movie in my life of 41 years I have walked out of the cinema on. Agreed with many of the comments regarding this years Oscar panel. Irrelevant Dinosaurs! Two hours of my life I will never get back! And to those of you who think you have a special insight into the wonders of movie making and direction. Please, gimme a break! How this movie was awarded over the likes of the Descendants I'll never know. ps. two of the six people in the cineam last night were actually asleep one hour in. I was a close third.

Good first act. Wayyyy too long second act with a few sublime visual flourishes short on narrative and absolutely no character development. Third act propped up by Bejo's radiance and the sublime Bernard Herrmann moment. I would have been less disappointed if the Miramax machine hadn't cranked up expectation, but hey that's showbiz. Ultimately a wonderful short film that outstays its welcome.

Best film I have seen in many, many years. Sadly, from some of the comments posted here there is a generation so numbed by mediocrity in TV and film that they don't appreciate quality when they see it. This film employs all the craft of a great director and cast. I was very wary of the Oscar hype, but what I saw this evening was great entertainment and great movie-making. For once the Academy got it right.

Reviewer "Tom ato" more or less has it right. The ultra-retro credentials of this film have propelled it to fame. However, I'm just about old enough to have seen some of the original b&w silent movies and this one would have been, frankly, average or worse. Sure, everybody likes a cute dog but for this to win Best Film was ridiculous. They should have re-released any of the old Laurel and Hardy films and they would have given it a serious challenge for the Oscar.

The best film I've seen for a long time. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Both leading actors are brilliant, not to mention the dog!

Sorry, but this was the most boring movie I have ever seen. It had a shallow and predictable plot. I was anxious to see a silent movie, but I should have gone to see the Three Stooges. At least it would have entertained me.

I had heard the hype and expected it to not meet mine naturally. However it just resonates with you. I thought it was well shot, and simple but effective. And the end left me with a feeling of enjoyment. The acting was superb with subtleties and characters that you could resonate with. I went to see The Descendants afterwards and I just felt nothing, just no emotion whatsoever. I hope it does well at the awards but moreover it was a victory for cinema, a homage to another time and so many themes interspersed throughout. Brilliant.

I thought this film was wonderful.The attention to detail and authenticity of the 1920s was incredible.The acting was superb so much harder to act without words having to rely on facial expressions and body language, the dog definitely deserves a contract.Such an original idea in this age of cgi and blockbusters to make a simple story based on fact. It recreated the era when talkies appeared and so many stars didn't make the transition successfully ie John Gilbert who was Greta Garbo's leading man but in real life his voice was so high pitched that his career was over when the talkies came in. Its one of the best films I've seen in years and really hope it sweeps the boards at Sunday's oscars.

COmpletely over hyped and slow, boring and without much merrit. Makes one wonder how in the hell it can be considered best picture material....Girl with Dragon Tattoo deserves the attention this is getting....its a bad way

It is probably not for younger generation as it is a very good picture of the silent Hollywood. We did enjoy it and if you like arty films go and see it. It is a must!

It was very boring and my first thought was Chaplin was at least interesting and charming left one hour into it. .

Ingenious idea for a film- didn't Rudolph Valentino's star bomb when his voice was not reckoned not to be talkie material? The monochrome adds authenticity to the movie. How do I teach my dog those tricks? The moral of the movie is adapt or die. Beguiling performances from all the cast. Direction spare and well observed. Gets my vote.

A clever and funny film which captures the period perfectly without being over sentimental, good to hear a cinema audience laughing at the many visual jokes. All of the cast are fabulous, John Goodman deserves a special mention. Brilliant music score helps things rattle along and will surely get special attention at the oscars. I wouldn't though recommend seeing this on TV or DVD, I think it needs the power of a big screen to remain engaging.

Unlike some of the other people sharing their thoughts, I see this picture as a masterpiece. It is an impeccably crafted movie. Everything's as it meant to be and everything makes a perfect sense. I've seen the film many times and didn't find anything I would think could've been done better or differently. Michel Hazanavicious pulled all the strings in the right direction to create something rare. It's everything a movie should be. It makes you believe in the story you see. It's clever and beautiful. And if you can't apreciate this film then you should go to see War Horse. That should be flat & pathetic enough.

A sweet confection, not much more, definitely not best picture material. It's one of those films that comes out from time to time that catches on wildly with the general public, but when once viewed, you wonder what all the fuss is about. It's a quaint & cute novelty item, a nostalgia trip, but nothing more...

I enjoyed it as a diversion from the usual offering in the theatre, but it's not "best picture" material.

If Martin Scorsese’s 3-D Hugo is deep on cinephile sentiment and short on depth, the Franco-American Artist paints a loving, lustrous portrait of Tinseltown in the late silent era. Few, if any, recent films have spoken with such eloquence on just how much the movies have lost by abandoning their roots in nuanced acting and pantomime.... Despite Dujardin’s charming, nimble presence (he won Cannes’ Best Actor award), the real star of the show is the film itself, a jaunty black-and-white trip down the memory lane of the silver screen. Shot in the boxy 1.33 celluloid format of old, The Artist is anything but square; it looks so positively right that its negative might have been uncanned from the vaults of MGM, Paramount or Fox (pre-Murdoch) during the bygone studio years.... (Full review now playing at

I enjoyed this a lot. It's a cute film, is well-acted, some nice scenes cleverly done, I think it's worth seeing.

A lovely fun movie. Loveable characters and beautifully filmed. Everything a classic should have - tears, laughter and love.

Extremely well made and acted though probably may personal quirk but I would have rather, being an older black and white 'style' film, that it had had few technical blemishes and at times looked more dated rather too much like a modern film in Black & White. Everything had great attention to detail. I did desperately avoid all reports and comments but the fact it was seen as one of teh best films of teh year probably led me to expect something just a little better.

The movie portrays the conflict of silent films and "talkies" so well. But the real success is that, by using good actors, who's faces, smiles, eyes tell exactly what they are feeling, the director makes dialog almost unnecessary. In an era where we have nothing BUT talking pictures, it was refreshing to see that the spoken word was really unnecessary. Of course, some of the silent film stars mugged relentlessly, and Dujardin showed that when he was acting in his movies-within-the-movie. But he also showed us how to relay emotion naturally, whith his eyes, and especially, his smile. I saw this movie twice. It's wonderful.

A ravishingly beautiful homage to the days of silent cinema. Beautifully shot, acted and totally original. I saw this film with my daughter who had seen it three days earlier. Take note Hollywood this is how inventive cinema should look and says far more than most movies can dream of - even in it's silence.

Thoroughly enjoyable and engaging from start to finish! Highly recommended!

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I'm a devotee of silent cinema and this seemed to me a delightful homage to the genre. I see that Duijardin has been criticised for being irritating. Surely it's the character he plays that's irritating. His performance reminded me of the opening sequence of "Singin' in the Rain" where Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) talks to his gullible fans. Every word is a lie but it's accompanied by many synthetic smiles and much phoney bonhomie that the fans lap it up. I also liked the music and didn't mind the use of Bernard Herrmann's music from "Vertigo". It's apposite to the scene and I heard an interview with Herrmannn's widow who was, despite initial doubts, very happy with the result. It's interesting to note that along with "Hugo" it's the second film in recent months to pay homage to an earlier cinematic age. Let's hope that a newer, younger audience will discover the treasures and pleasures of silent cinema as a result of these movies. With that in mind I can't resist putting in a plug for the marvellous 1925 "Ben-Hur" which is being shown at the Festival Hall on Saturday 9th June at 7pm complete with live orchestra conducted by Carl Davis..

Really Boring! After 10 minutes I was asleep. Now I see why I like every film the critics hate!

Very cute and nostalgic. We enjoyed it and it was old world charming but not the film of the year

I agree that it was filmed well, was very different to most films released today and takes the viewer back to the days of good old fashioned stars wth charm and elegance. However, this film for me did not deliver based on the hype it has received. I would rate this film as no more than a 2 out of 5 for content. At no point was i gripped on the storyline, wonderng where it would lead, and when over, felt relieved that it had come to an end. However, most other viewers seemed to leave the cinema saying how they had enjoyed it. Perhaps it was just not for me.

I went to see this film wondering how 100 minutes of a silent film may be able to keep me constantly entertained and whether it would get boring after a while. But the approach, the directorship, the acting etc were most absorbing and enchanting. I would even go and see it again, something that I do extremely rarely.

The cinema was full and silent gripped by the story and a positive vibe at the end, surprisingly good and a wonderful change from the formulaic output we are fed from Hollywood. Did not find the usual noise from popcorn and noisy eaters was the less bit distracting during the absence of dialogue and the music drowned them all out. A little long but only a minor point as the film was very enjoyable.

I loved it, right from the opening credits! Beautifully done, magical, clever, and heart-warming. Jean Dujardin and Berenice AND the dog were perfect! Delightful film!

Reasonably interesting premise, well made but ultimately not very interesting or engaging. Over-hyped by critics because of the premise and the, at times clunky, cinematic references woven into it.

i cannot underestimate the importance of cinema to our culture, knowledge and understanding of the world. I adore silent film which can be engrossing and heartbreaking. This however, is not cinema. Its was one of the worst films ive ever seen. i cannot believe the hype. I will never get that evening back!

What IS astonishing about this film is the gushing reviews it's received; a phenomenon in itself. Astonishing for this is a truly dire film: flacid cutesy humour (the opening sequence sets the tone), characters so innocuous I'd challenge you to feel anything for, dramatically feeble, a rather obvious 'cleverness' in it's manipulation of soundtrack, and the irritation - which as strangely morphed into fascination - that the film makers are smugly in love with their own artful conceit of it all. I think a more snappy title would have been A Charmless Mannered Pastiche of Charm Utterly Witless and Oddly Claustrophobic I'll give it 5 stars because that is just SO wrong

I found this film somewhat over-hyped. Do not get me wrong; this was still a good film. I would still recommend seeing it. However, the media, TV and radio coverage, and the advance reviews of this film, made it seem to be a masterpiece. A good film, but no masterpiece.

Silent movies require a) simple plot and b) overacting. The Artist displayed both these traits. I was definitely under-whelmed and couldn't see - however 'well-made' - how it could have received such plaudits, given the simplicity and lack of depth of the storyline. No, I certainly didn't 'get it'!

I fought against sleep during the first half. Dujardin seemed unwarrantably pleased with himself (the Clark Gable moustache didn't help) and, when deemed obsolete, fell swiftly into self-pity, not to mention improbable attempted self-immolation. Bejo's smile was indeed gorgeous, but basically he didn't deserve her. What were the critics frothing on about? But give the dog an Oscar.

The twist at the end, which only one of the reviewers in this site seems to have noticed. wraps up an excellent movie. jean dujardin is devilishly handsome with the cheesiest smile in hollywood. time and money well spent. give us more!

I saw this film last week and having fallen asleep in it assumed my tiredness had something to do with a bad night's sleep the evening before. Having seen the film again, I'm not so sure about lack of sleep being the issue. Though the concept's original by current standards, the simplicity and predictability of the story made the film less than gripping. I'm not sure this film helps itself with a trailer that gives away way too much.   Thought it's well acted, other than that of the dog, I'm not sure there were any Oscar winning performances in there. The costume, lighting, and photography are all excellent. I left the film at the end feeling the film thinks it's  more captivating and clever than it is. Two stars or 5 / 10. 

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