Thursday 23 February 2012

Review: The Artist

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Artist poster

The Artist
100 mins / Dir. Michel Hazanavicius

Cineworld have decided, that I can see this now, a mere seven weeks after its original UK release date. Obviously, they had Goon, The Darkest Hour and Ghost Rider 2 to show me first, so that's entirely understandable.

Anyway. The Artist has finally arrived, so Mrs Blackout and myself duly went to see what all the damned fuss is about…

The Plot: It's 1927 and George Valentin, silent matinee heartthrob, finds himself being left behind in Hollywood's transition to talking pictures. As his life falls apart around him he watches the meteoric rise of Peppy Miller, a star he unwittingly helped create, with a mixture of wonder and envy...

The Good: Oh, it's beautifully made. Much has already been written (and better) about the homages to the past fused with the knowingness of the present, but it really has to be seen to be believed. Hazanavicius has captured the essence of silent cinema perfectly. You're not bombarded with speech-boards, which really puts the onus on the performers to communicate with their performances. For the most part, the sound-design is purely the soundtrack, but the dream sequence is rather nicely done and caught me unawares. It's one of those films whose final scene finds you grinning from ear to ear. A rarity in this day and age, and worthy of your time and appreciation.

The Bad: …the second act drags a bit. Not for nothing, but you could quite easily trim about 15 minutes out of there. I don't mind that the film is 100 minutes long, but there's probably only about 80 minutes story, tops. I like that it's a film of antique sensibility yet with modern length, but the format's old fashioned to the point that the story doesn't take that long to tell. It never becomes unbearable, but I found myself willing the story forward probably more than I should.

The Ugly: Not the fault of the filmmakers, but I saw this in analogue projection. Slightly out of focus, possibly with one colour-damaged reel analogue. I'm not going to get all Kermode and lament the absence of a trained projectionist, I'd just rather all the screens showed digital presentations. At least for new releases, anyway. The first act of the film had a distinctly blue tone to the black and white, but when George wakes up in bed after his nightmare the film suddenly snapped into sepia tones. Like noticeably snapped. This may have been deliberate, but I haven't seen anyone else mentioning it. About twenty minutes after that, and the left half of the screen was in sepia, blending into blue-toned mono on the right. This lasted for the rest of the film. I'm not opposed to the idea of showing an old-fashioned film on actual celluloid, but do it properly, eh?
If it's deliberate, it seems an unusual choice, but they're not always the sharpest tacks down at my local, so my money's on a set of duff prints. If you know any more about this, leave me a comment, hmm?

And while I'm on: The dog's not all that, really. A cute, talented dog for sure, but very much an accessory to the story rather than a driving force. I only mention this because everyone else seems to think Uggie's performance is outstanding. Oh, and doesn't Jean Dujardin look a bit like Bradley Cooper? Part of me was expecting it to be an uncredited performance, but he kept his shirt on for the film, so it can't have been him...

Worth £8+? Absolutely. You won't lose too much by watching it at home, but it really is made for the cinema. If you haven't caught The Artist yet, and it's still on at your local, you could do a lot worse than treating yourself to this (no, seriously. You could do a lot worse. Ghost Rider 2's probably still on, for a start).

Ignore the hype (including mine), and just enjoy it for what it is: a great old-fashioned movie.


Okay, it's not life changing, but it's definitely a standout film in this day and age. If you don't enjoy this on some level, you probably have no soul.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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