Movie Analysis: The Artist (2011)

With the award season having to be put on pause, I thought why not watch an award winning film. “The Artist (2011)” is an amazing silent film that follows the story of a silent film male actor. Once talkies become popular, his stubbornness to stick with the past makes him less desirable.

Jean Dujardin became the first ever French actor to win a Best Actor Academy Award when he won an Oscar for this film. Image courtesy of Hollywoodfix.com.

“The Artist” was directed and written by Machel Hazanavicius, and was released on Jan. 20, 2012. The film had a budget of 15 million dollars. It grossed 204 thousand dollars in its opening weekend and grossed 45 million dollars in the U.S. The film is rated PG-13 for disturbing images and crude gestures. 

The star actors of the film include Jean Dujardin who played Geroge Valentin, Berenice Bejo who played Peppy Miller and John Goodman who plays Al Zimmerman. 

“The Artist” has won 161 awards and has been nominated for 204 awards. The film won five Academy Awards that include Best Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role; Jean Dujardin and Best Achievement in Directing. It was also nominated for 5 other Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Berenice Bejo. 

This was one of the better films that I’ve ever seen. I was skeptical when I saw that it won five Oscars because I don’t really like those kinds of films, but this one was so surprisingly spectacular. I knew I was going to at least enjoy “The Artist” because I love the 1920’s esthetic films, especially if it’s around old Hollywood. I wasn’t expecting the film to be entirely silent, but it didn’t diminish the experience. 

Even though the entire movie was silent with only flashes of text for dialogue, the story kept me interested until the very end. Another thing that kept me invested, was the specific camera shots it had, specifically one in particular in the beginning of the film. It’s a wide shot of the side of a building and you can see the stairway and the floors above and below it. I recognized this shot as paying homage to the old style of camera work Another amazing technical aspect that I loved was the use of dramatic angles and lighting. Although those kinds of angles didn’t come into play until later around the 1930’s, I really like how they used it to make scenes more dramatic. This combination of techniques really helped advance the story, especially since there was limited dialogue.

All of the dancing scenes from The Artist where performed by the actors themselves. Image courtesy of Hollywood.com.

The performances by both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo were perfect. Dujardin perfectly encapsulated the stereotypical charming one man show. In the beginning, he played it off so amazingly it was such a dramatic shift to see the actor George Valentin be at his lowest of low. The performance by Bejo was excellent, and Peggy was easily my favorite character. I have a soft spot for small name actresses that make it big in Hollywood, so I easily fell in love with her. I think that since there is basically no dialogue the film had to rely on the actors to portray the characters and they both nailed it. 

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I think my absolute favorite part of this film was the use of sound. Since the main character we are following doesn’t want to switch away from the silence, the majority of the film is silent. The scene that really emphasizes his dislike for the silent films is when he starts to think about giving the talkies a chance and he can hear things. As the audience you can hear everything he can hear, and you can see in his acting that he is utterly terrified of the natural noises around him. When he was first introduced to it he was terrified and thus hated the idea of talkies. It isn’t until he realizes that he needs to switch his way of thinking that we finally have a brief moment of sound. 

 

Do you have any recommendations on what films I should look into next? Send your suggestions to [email protected]

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