CANNES 2011

Cannes 2011 Review: Michel Hazanavicius' B&W Silent Film 'The Artist'

by
May 16, 2011

The Artist Cannes Review

In today's modern world, we're used to seeing films in color, with sound, with music, with dialogue, and sometimes even in 3D. Every once in a while a filmmaker goes black-and-white to tell a story. But before yesterday, never have I seen a modern filmmaker attempt to create a completely new B&W silent film. Not only did French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius do exactly that, but he has crafted a wonderful homage that's just wonderful and exudes an effusive love for cinema. It's called The Artist and stars French actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo and is set in the late 20s in Hollywood at the end of the silent film era.

The plot is fairly straightforward, and it's essentially a silent film all over again. George Valentin (Dujardin) is a big silent film star, but with the advent of sound and talkies, his career begins to wither away, as its a new era and no one wants to see an old star. Early on, he bumps into Peppy Miller (Bejo), a wannabe starlet who starts with small side roles and eventually becomes the new hot thing, breaking out big with the talkies. George even has a Jack Russell Terrier who follows him around is on screen in every scene he is, just like in the old days. There's a bit of a love story, but it's more of a tragedy about the downfall of an actor at the advent of technological progression. Which, I would say, is just as relevant today as it was back in the 20s.

There was just something truly magical about seeing Hazanavicius attempt, and succeed, at recreating a silent film that not only follows the same technique, but brings us deep into the world of Hollywood at the time. It's light and comical, and at times corny, but ceaselessly charming and entertaining to watch. I felt so many magnificent emotions, from delight to sadness to pure joy, and I never stopped smiling from start to finish. The Artist has a kind of wonderful, classic feeling that all cinephiles can and should love that also gives us the opportunity to revel in a time and place that we really don't see much of on screen nowadays.

Fritz Lang's Metropolis is one of my all-time favorite films, a classic silent film, and being able to spend more time exploring that kind of world and that kind of cinema, something which I admittedly haven't had too much experience with before, was an exciting experience for me. I don't just love this film, I adore it, and there's not much I can be critical about. Why complain about the running time when it's the love for classic cinema and the brilliant, flawless execution that already makes this a masterpiece? I cannot suggest it enough and truly hope everyone takes the opportunity to catch The Artist at some point during its release.

Alex's Cannes Rating: 10 out of 10

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  • Voice of Reason
    Curious. Were there caption pages conveying dialogue? Was the picture crisp and and modern or aged to look old timey?
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      Yea, they used caption pages/title cards in it. It was shot in 3:4 aspect ratio and looked crisp and clear, but with a score and in B&W/period setting obviously.
      • Voice of Reason
         Not knowing what the score consisted of, it'd be amazing if for some screenings the music was performed live like in the old days. Definitely gonna check this out!
      • Gwj2001us
        Don't equate the B&W movies that are around today with the movies that were released in the 20's.  When released they were sharp and clear.  Sadly most of the silent movies we see today are copies of copies of deteriorated films. 
  • Jimisback
    What about Mel Brooks, Silent Movie.? 
    • Ken
      It was not a silent movie - there was ONE speaking part.
      • WestHoustonGeo
        Well, I'll take the bait.  Who was it then?  What was his motivation and what did he say?
        • Prmanners
           It was French mime Marcel Marceau. He said "Non!"
          • Bennd
             A mime saying one word in a silent movie named "Silent Movie" . . . Freakin' awesome!
    • Boohoos
      I guess to this butthole Alex Mel Brooks isn't modern enough
  • H.P. Lovecraft
    Google 'call of cthulhu movie' to see another recent silent black and white movie.  A good one, too.   
    • Marc Cerasini
      I agree, the silent CALL OF CTHULHU was superb, a real treasure. But it wasn't at Cannes, unfortunately. 
  • Biff
    The author should run a grammar check prior to posting. 
    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UDI3FH44K625C4XLK5VRR4ISNQ InTheBubble
       Jeepers, Biff, there are exactly TWO egregious grammatical errors in his article, which otherwise flows like a fast and exuberant river.  You cruel grammer grouches show know that the afterlife for you holds an eternity of smashed fingers and burned tongues.
      • Gefgefg
         Looks like you need some help with your grammar too, InTheBubble! LOL "show know" ?? You suck.
        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UDI3FH44K625C4XLK5VRR4ISNQ InTheBubble
           Grammar?  That's not stinking Grammar!  That's a misspelling!  You spelling sissies should get together with the grammar grinches and get your stories straight.
  • Pon Kee Bai
    I hope this guy's idea of a silent film is NOT to recreate the shortcomings of films in that era.   Silent, OK.    Black and White, Fine.  Crappy quality?  No,no.  Es Verdad? 
  • Anonymous
    A huge fan of Dujardin after OSS 117 (well the second one was terrible) he so looks the part for this, embodying a perfect Willliam Powell and Errol Flynn. Glad you liked it, more of an experience than a story by the sound of it...and 10 out of 10?! Can't wait to see it myself!!
  • csbrewfisher
    Do you get paid to write?  If it was my money, I would ask for a refund.
    • MBC
      It was OK.  Some of the goofs were a little jarring, but English may not be Mr. Billington's first language OR it was simply a first draft that didn't get looked at a second time---always a mistake for an author.  One could always blame the editor for not editing.
    • MBC
      I also meant to mention that you might want to refine your text by correct use of the subjuctive.  "If it were my money..."
      • Glennd46
        You misspelled "subjunctive." :) 
      • http://profiles.google.com/nealjking Neal King
         It depends on whether csbrewfisher is writing British English or American English: - The British don't use the subjunctive anymore. - The Americans (mostly) don't know how to use the subjunctive; but it is still part of the language.
  • bromes4378
    And just how does the acting in this differ from any movie where the soundtrack is turned off? 
  • Kenneth94402
    Hmmm...there' nothing new here or original.  The is the plot of the 1930's classic "A Star Is Born " with Frederick March! And this is hailed in Cannes?  How old are the judges there--under 35?    
  • http://twitter.com/darktaxidermist Davide Coppola
     Ok you convinced me. I'll watch this.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blake-S-Davis/1381421564 Blake S. Davis
    I love those old films - and the culture that was able to put out such films. Everything came together - he vaudeville actors who found work in films, great directors who got theirs tart in silent films and knew how to move a story forward and make it look effortless, a lovely art deco movie sets, it will never be repeated. Those films set the stage for the greatest generation to defeat fascism and take on such issues as civil rights.  I can't wait to see this movie -      
  • Gohikeone
    Whoa Alex!  You just got linked on Drudge Report!  Is this a first?  Hope your servers are ready!!
  • Anonymous
    Silent movies, Depressions, High unemployment, all making a comeback.  Thanks, Obama.  His policies are a violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our right:They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like "America Deceived II" and censoring the internet. They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns. They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers. They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries. Impeach Obama and sweep out the Congress. (Last link of Banned Book): http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000190526
    • Anonymous
      i like to go on entertainment websites and preach my thoughts about politics to! we should start some sort of club or something
      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UDI3FH44K625C4XLK5VRR4ISNQ InTheBubble
         That's cool, Doom.  I, on the other hand, prefer to look at all things through a telescope, blindly concentrating on the single subject that my simple mind can handle.
      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002201394302 Jack Norton
         @DoomCanoe. Said well with a minimum of verbiage. 8.5 out of 10.
      • Potsey Webber
         yeah, and those derelicts(a few posts up) who always grammar check the author of the story. I wanna start one of them clubs where you go onto Weight Watchers website and post about classic cars.
  • http://profiles.google.com/richardfontaine3 Richard Fontaine
    If I like this movie does that make me a racist? Just checking.  
  • Tomhd
    There is something beautiful about the concept of silent movies.INTERPRETATION ,where imagination fills the voids and therefore creating the first  interactive piece of art.
    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YLV6PIEM3PVDX3VLTKBO4AYFAA Whodat1
      Yes, they are called 'Books'! 
  • HarryHoudini
    There is another silent film at Cannes playing at the SFC called The Bridge directed by Justin Possenti. I found it simply delightful. I guess the silents are making a comeback :) http://www.shortfilmcorner.com/sfcfilm/filmfiche2.aspx?id=53514408
  • The Guardian
     Im in the club! anyone want to talk about the multi pronged war(S) weve been engaged in for most of this century? and how nobody talks about how THAT Is bleeding us dry and has been long before obama? or the fact that all these teabag clowns talk about fiscal responsibility but are BFF's with every corporate head and cash cows for corporations???  NO? Anyone?  Im smart cause I watch op eds on fox!
    • Politics > Silent Movies
      When you reference the Multi-pronged war(s) do you include the Libyan incursion in the wars that have been 'bleeding us dry' long before Obama. You started strong with the first sentence and then lost it with the second one and going forward.    Obama is essentially the same as George Bush as it pertains to foreign (interference) policy. If you disagree, then I would venture to guess you are just not looking closely enough. Perhaps blinded by ideology. A couple of examples to rest my case, the surge in Afghanistan, the fact that Guantanamo still remains open, the use of force in Libya and on and on and on. Talk about change....
  • lando
     I cant wait to see this, and im glad someone pointed out that silent films came out crisp and sharp and were very impactful upon release. Im in love with King Vidor's "The Crowd" and of course there are so many other classics to mention...(metropolis, Dr. Caligari, nosferatu, etc..) I really love the fact that someone is trying to do this and seemingly doing it right!! thanks alex
  • Angry
    Almost a century short of 'The Birth of a Nation' Nice try, though.
  • Hebi
    I have a couple of silent movies, Phantom of the Opera, and Joan of Arc' (1927).  The acting in both are excellent and convey the emotions sought for with out any audio verbiage.  If you get a chance, I know you will enjoy Joan of Arc' it is now one of my favorites  
  • Anonymous
    Did they have a scene with water coming out of the ceiling light fixture? I always liked those in silent films.
  • Fpessoa
    This review is so lame. I adore this movie ... It's so good ... It's a masterpiece ... I love Metropolis ... Yeah right you do. Not one bit of critical analysis. Just the proclamation that the movie is a silent one. I don't doubt that the movie was good. I just think this writing is crap.
  • Robertpina99
    The French make a classic Hollywood American silent film and congratulate themselves for making a great French film. 
  • Butters900
    Sounds like the Gilbert/Garbo story.  Can't wait to see it.  Oh wait, my local cineplex wouldn't dare.
  • Dixie
    Alex, Since you enjoyed this era of film so much, see 1922 Our Dancing Daughters with a very young Joan Crawford, dazzling in sets, costumes and Flappers. Anything Harold Lloyd to find out why he was more popular than Chaplin or Keaton at the time (much more current to the times then, ie Prohibition). And just for 'quirky' Man of the Century, 1999, about a guy who lives in the 20s, but it is the 90s. 
  • Superiorex1
    after reading some of the feedback--silence is golden.
  • Stanwriter
    Seen it. OK, but nothing special. Plot predictabe. Music annoying. Two good bits - when he starts to hear sound in his dressing room, and BANG1

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