The Artist

The Artist

The Artist

directed by Michel Hazanavicius

starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, and James Cromwell

Studio 37, La Petite, Warner

When the film world was silent, story flowed from images, and the occasional flash of text could clarify the finer points that didn’t scan well on screen. In that black-and-white world, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) rules Kinoscope studios — he upstages his wife and costar Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), sleeps with his perky Jack Russell terrier Uggie, and looks like the sort of guy who would wear a tux while mowing the lawn. At a publicity event, newcomer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) wrangles her way into his photo shoot and the front page of Variety and into a decent film career of her own. You expect adultery, but she only makes out with his overcoat, and this movie keeps its squeaky clean image all the way to George’s career crash-and-burn. Doris leaves because George is full of himself, Peppy makes the big time because she’s good, and George is lucky to have Uggie, and Clifton (James Cromwell) as his chauffeur, even when he has no car. Thank goodness George can tap dance and do a decent Buck and Wing when he gets a second chance.

Dujardin plays George with a genteel bonhomie and gleaming smile, and while he doesn’t get along with his wife, he doesn’t appear to have a mean bone in him. Ms. Bejo bubbles all over the screen, John Goodman is the jowly studio head with a heart of gold, and James Cromwell as the chauffeur is the model of discreet propriety you would hire to drive your Duesenberg, if you ever got one. But what really sells this picture is the cinematography. It’s black and white with subtle tones that telegraph the mood, and the camera work mixes Citizen Kane with the French New Wave and the iconography of Buster Keaton. While the scene shots are as static as an early Poverty Row film, the angles soar, and each scene is framed like a jewel. One brilliant scene shows a three-story staircase with extras running up and down, and in the chaos George walks down past a rising Peppy Miller. They pass, pause and turn, and while the symbolism may be blunt, it’s effective — he’s on his way down, she’s on her way up, and as he leaves the building across the street we see “The Lone Star Cafe.” In other words, there’s enough subtle stuff in the backdrop to keep you interested even after repeated viewings.

Film buffs will eat this up, and even their dates will stay engaged. This is one of the niftiest films of the season, and it’s shot like a movie from 100 years ago. Some styles are just timeless.

The Artist: www.allianceholidaymovies.ca/the-artist.php

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Shithouse
    Shithouse

    A darling love story with engaging characters and one of the worst titles ever.

  • Too Much and Never Enough
    Too Much and Never Enough

    One families indifference and abandonment gave America its greatest failure. Mary Trump explains how.

  • Summerland
    Summerland

    In rural England, a cranky woman bonds with and evacuee boy and uncovers a strange connection to her past.

  • Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
    Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

    These geniuses of early comedy finally get the presentation they are due in this Blu-ray edition.

  • Four-Letter Words
    Four-Letter Words

    No need to worry about offending delicate sensibilities with this playlist. We’re not talking about profanity, so just take the title at face value.

  • A Genesis In My Bed
    A Genesis In My Bed

    Former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett shares his life story in his story in an engaging and honest memoir. Reading his story feels like hanging out with a friend who’s interested in sharing how he felt living these experiences.

  • The Jayhawks
    The Jayhawks

    XOXO (Sham/Thirty Tigers). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • 18 to Party
    18 to Party

    When you’re in 8th grade, sneaking into a bar is way cooler than it is when you’re 40.

  • Adam
    Adam

    A pregnant woman finds a home in Casablanca.

  • 2020 on Fire
    2020 on Fire

    Sound Salvation takes on current events with a playlist addressing the current fight for racial and social justice in America and the battles playing out in the streets in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

From the Archives