Title: The Artist
Country: France, Belgium
Genre: Romance, Drama, Comedy
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Penelope Ann Miller
Having watched this soon-to-be Oscar winner in the local cinema (after repeatedly brainwashed by its trailer in the multiplexes), indeed it’s my third encounter with silent films behind SUNRISE (1927), and FINANCES OF THE GRAND DUKE (1924). The film is masterfully presented from the very beginning until the NEAR-end. THE ARTIST is among the laureates of 2011’s film territory without any doubt.
But, in my very own opinion, the much-anticipated Oscar sweep is simply a victory of nostalgia. If it had been made decades before, say 60 years ago, it would be boosted as a silent version of A STAR IS BORN with an excellent cast and splendid score, smooth and melodic, and be ascertained as a major contender but with little likeness to procure the sure-fire ultimate winner kudos which it has now in 2012, when audience has been accustomed to talkies for ages. THE ARTIST is defying all the regular habits to remind cineastes that a silent B&W film could be so potently entertaining and watchable. My point is that I don’t think the film itself should take all the credit, though the team behind does have a genius concoction to evoke the retro fixation to its core targets, film-related mass which are the pillar of the film industry (academy included for sure). I doubt who in the field will not love the film? It’s a crowd-pleaser for filmmakers, especially the elderly rank. (Actually THE ARTIST and HUGO are holding the same slant here, but Martin Scorsese utilizes tons of money to invest a monolithic fantasy while a foreign no-name Michel Hazanavicius and his troupe achieves the same effect through a more lightweight and unconventional approach, so if the ballots are leaning towards THE ARTIST, no one should scratch their heads.)
Also another edge of THE ARTIST is that despite of the pungent situation of both film’s languid box office income is embarrassing no matter who will win the game eventually, there is an essential difference between them, that is THE ARTIST has no difficulty to retrieve its meager budget ($15,000,000), meanwhile HUGO seems to be on the right track of becoming another commercial flunk like THE GOLDEN COMPASS (if not more) even though it’s a Scorsese vehicle, which is not an encouraging exemplar for Hollywood tycoons to bankroll their future projects.
Digressing back from the film itself, Jean Dujardin is my current winning for BEST ACTOR, whose protean flair of balancing between comedy and drama is admirable and compelling; Ms. Bejo’s ambiguous leading/supporting status maybe hamper her ballots but she is impeccable in the film.
The said “NEAR-end” incident concerns my thought of the final scene of the talkie moment, which is a regretful anticlimax for me (although sound and words are plied flawlessly during the middle session to underline the conversion to the talkie era), but Mr. Dujardin’s French accent last word is not attuned with his character at all, which downgrades the film as well.
Anyway, I could have rated the film higher, but my heart goes with HUGO, but who cares?