Monday, August 13, 2012

Silence Makes "The Artist" Golden

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 66 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Artist (2011)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: France, Belgium; Language: English
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for a disturbing image and a crude gesture
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius
PRODUCERS: Thomas Langmann and Emmanuel Montamat
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Guillaume Schiffman
EDITORS: Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
COMPOSER: Ludovic Bource
Academy Award winner


Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter, Ken Davitian, Michael McDowell, and Uggy

The Artist is a 2011 French romantic comedy and drama done in the style of a black and white silent film. It should be noted that although the film is French, what dialogue it does have is in English. The Artist won the Academy Award for “Best Picture,” one of five it won at the 84th Academy Awards (February 2012). It was the first primarily silent film to win the best picture Oscar since 1927 and the first black and white film to win since Schindler’s List (1993).

The Artist was also one of the best reviewed films of the year (if not the best). I had my doubts, but after seeing it, I can say that it is indeed a fine and exceptional film. It is a true feel-good movie, and is also visually quite beautiful.

The Artist opens in 1927 and finds silent film star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), posing for pictures with his dog and frequent film sidekick, Jack the dog (Uggy). That is when he meets aspiring actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). George and Peppy strike up a friendship that creates newspaper headlines, and soon Peppy is getting small parts in some films.

George’s boss at Kinograph Motion Picture Company, Al Zimmer (John Goodman), informs his star that silent films are about to be replaced by “talkies,” motion pictures with a sound. As silent films fade away, Peppy’s career begins to rise. How will George survive in this new era in motion pictures and will his relationship with Peppy survive all the changes occurring in this new world?

Some of you, dear readers, may groan when I say that I found The Artist to be inimitably charming. Well, it’s true; this movie has a lot of charm, and I think its charm is what wins people over. There is a simplicity in the storytelling here that reminds viewers that movies don’t need a wall of surround sound noise and the tsunami of cinema technology to create something that wins hearts and captures imaginations.

For a little over two decades, beginning especially with Terminator 2: Judgment Day and personified by Jurassic Park (1993), movie making (in general) and the Hollywood filmmaking industry (in particular), have been on an inexorable march towards post human cinema. Movies seem to be mostly generated inside a computer, but The Artist harks back to what is still pure about movies. A group of people in front and behind the camera come together and ply their trade, show off their skills, and let their humanity show.

Taking advantage of the human body and face’s ability to express emotion, ideas, and even thought, actors Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo embody Michel Hazanavicius’ delicate but spry love story. In The Artist, the people are the show, not science, although I imagine that it took cinema-tech to bring us back to early filmmaking and to remind us of people power in film. The Artist deserved its Oscars.

9 of 10

2012 Academy Awards: 5 wins: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Thomas Langmann), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Michel Hazanavicius), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Jean Dujardin), “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Mark Bridges), and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Ludovic Bource); 5 nominations: “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Laurence Bennett-production designer and Robert Gould-set decorator), “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Guillaume Schiffman), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Bérénice Bejo), and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” Michel Hazanavicius)

2012 BAFTA Awards: 7 wins: “Best Cinematography” (Guillaume Schiffman), “Best Costume Design” (Mark Bridges), “Best Director” (Michel Hazanavicius), “Best Film” (Thomas Langmann), “Best Leading Actor” (Jean Dujardin), “Best Original Music” (Ludovic Bource), and “Best Original Screenplay” (Michel Hazanavicius); 5 nominations: “Best Editing” (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius), “Best Leading Actress” (Bérénice Bejo), “Best Make Up & Hair” (Julie Hewett and Cydney Cornell), “Best Production Design” (Laurence Bennett and Robert Gould), and “Best Sound” (Michael Krikorian and Nadine Muse)

2012 Golden Globes, USA: 3 wins: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical,” “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Ludovic Bource), and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Jean Dujardin); 3 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Michel Hazanavicius), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Bérénice Bejo), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Michel Hazanavicius)

2011 Cannes Film Festival: 1 win: “Best Actor” (Jean Dujardin) and 1 nomination: “Palme d'Or” (Michel Hazanavicius)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

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