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the artist
Click for full sized poster

The Artist

Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm MacDowell, Missi Pyle and John Goodman
Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius

IN SHORT: Another for the Best of the Year list. [Rated PG-13. 100 minutes]

Writer/Director Michel Hazanavicius has done something unique in this eleventh year of the new millenium. He's created a silent film, with interstitial titles and everything, and presented a story which actually, almost brought a tear to our eyes. The one "sound effect" joke in his story is easily equivalent to Mel Brooks' choice in Silent Movie (to give dialog only to a character played by world famous mime Marcel Marceau), those who know a little bit of film history will see nods to everything from Zorro to Lassie and even A Star is Born.

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie star of major proportions. Hits like "The German Affair" and "The Russian Affair" have women swooing in the aisles and his employer, Kinograph Pictures, lining his pockets with oodles of greenbacks. His manservant Clifton (James Cromwell) attends to his master's needs, chauferring the star around town and buying appropriate "apology" presents for the master's wife, Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), whenever the boss gets "distracted".

One of those potential distractions is a would be actress named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). She manages to get picked out of a cattle call at the studio and hte star takes an immediate interest. Being 1927, that means he teaches her to use a makeup stick to create a small mole above her lip. A very sexy touch and one that will become her trademark as the year winds on and silent movies fall to the technological marvel that is being called "the talkies."

It's an important bit of film history that we will not fault any reader for learning in fim school. Talkies destroyed the careers of many a silent stars. Many dashing actors, it turned out, had high, squeaky and/or otherwise effeminate sounding voices and lost their careers. Millionaires found themselves on breadlines with "regular people" in the midst of the Great Depression. Unknown non-actors found themselves plucked out of nowhere and elevated to stardom. While there are no lunch counter discoveries in The Artist, the rise of one star and the fall of another leads to another, surprising and sentimental detente. And, yeah, we saw it coming a mile off. Watching The Artist demands total attention to the visual images onthe big screen and, frankly, once you're locked in you're doomed <vbg>.

Perhaps for American audiences, the " studio producer" named Zimmer is played by the talented television star John Goodman (best known as Roseanne's husband, all these years later). Goodman hams it up, which is closer to what we may consider "silent acting" to be. Nonetheless, it just adds another layer to an extraordinary motion picture.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Artist, he would have paid . . .

$9*

9* means we think the film has Oscar etc. potential. It's just easier to start grouping 'em now, at the end of the year.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Michel Hazanavicius
Click to buy films starring James Cromwell
Click to buy films starring Malcolm MacDowell

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.