The Artist ★★★★

This was on my radar last year during its limited theatrical run because I was drawn to the novel concept behind it. I've been dabbling in films from the silent era the last few years. Alas, last January was kind of a rough month for me and I missed it. I happily discovered the library has it on DVD, though, so I was finally able to see it.

It's a delightful love letter to the twilight of the silent era and the dawn of the talkies, and I was completely smitten with Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller. She lit up the screen in every frame in which she appeared, and I missed her any time she was absent from the screen.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Ludovic Bource's score, which feels authentic for the picture while also managing to not feel like an imitation of past works. It's not nearly as easy as a lot of people seem to think it is to recreate the aesthetics of the past, but Bource nailed it with his score here.

The award for Easiest Screen Credit to Earn, Ever has to go to Malcolm McDowell for his one scene here in which all he did was sit beside Bérénice Bejo and smile at her newspaper. For that, he merited being fifth on the poster's cast credits? Nice work if you can get it! (I'd happily sit beside Bejo and smile at whatever she wanted to show me, without any credit at all.)

I knew long before seeing the film that it wasn't 100% silent and that Jean Dujardin did speak at the very end, though I didn't know what he said or in what context. There's a scene about half an hour or so into the film where George has a nightmare about sound, and we hear sound effects - even the dog barking and laughter from passing women - but he is incapable of uttering a sound. I understand the narrative significance of the scene, undermining how threatened George feels about talkies and not having a place in them, but all the same that took me out of the film. Part of that, I'm sure, is that I already knew there would be some sound in the film and that scene made me too conscious about it.

How The Artist Entered My Flickchart

The Artist > Varsity Blues --> #744
I only saw Varsity Blues once, some time in the late 90s. I liked it okay but wasn't wowed by it. I was, however, completely charmed by The Artist. It gets the nod.

The Artist < The Offence --> #744
I'm smitten with Bérénice Bejo's performance as Peppy Miller, but Sean Connery's turn as Detective Sergeant Johnson is the most powerful screen work of his I've seen yet.

The Artist > Dreams with Sharp Teeth --> #558
I get a kick out of Harlan Ellison and tales about him, but against the delight that is Bérénice Bejo? Easy choice.

The Artist > Duck Amuck --> #465
I think Duck Amuck is my favorite of the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts, but even its genius wasn't as satisfying as was Michel Hazanavicius's love letter to the golden age of Hollywoodland.

The Artist < Harvey --> #465
As taken as I was with Bérénice Bejo in The Artist, I was more entertained overall by Harvey - from its absurd premise to James Stewart's earnest performance.

The Artist > The Prestige --> #441
The Prestige did a great job engaging my intellect but it left me emotionally cold. The Artist didn't really require much astuteness from me, but I felt warm watching it. This time, the warmth carries the day.

The Artist > Marnie --> #430
I really enjoyed the performances by Connery and Hedren in Marnie, though I'm not terribly big on Hitchcock's melodramas. Going with The Artist here for being so charming.

The Artist < Barbershop --> #430
I'm totally crushing on Bérénice Bejo in the wake of finally having seen The Artist but I think I have to go with Barbershop as the better film. This time, anyway.

The Artist > Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire --> #426
The Goblet of Fire wasn't my favorite of the Harry Potter movies, but I did enjoy it. I'm going with The Artist here, though for being more novel and original - and for the charm of Bérénice Bejo.

The Artist > The Sandlot --> #425
I really need to re-watch The Sandlot. I haven't seen it since it ran in theaters 20 years ago. I recall it as a really good coming-of-age story, but not strongly enough to pick it here this time.

The Artist > Barbershop --> #424
Oh, fine. I really *am* smitten with Bérénice Bejo. The Artist wins this time!

The Artist entered my Flickchart at #424/1488

84th Academy Awards (2011)
(W) ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE -- Jean Dujardin {"George Valentin"}
(N) ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Bérénice Bejo {"Peppy Miller"}
(N) ART DIRECTION -- Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
(N) CINEMATOGRAPHY -- Guillaume Schiffman
(W) COSTUME DESIGN -- Mark Bridges
(W) DIRECTING -- Michel Hazanavicius
(N) FILM EDITING -- Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
(W) MUSIC (Original Score) -- Ludovic Bource
(W) BEST PICTURE -- Thomas Langmann, Producer
(N) WRITING (Original Screenplay) -- Written by Michel Hazanavicius