Re-View: The Artist | On Demand
We take a second look at this year’s Best Picture winner.
Our first look “While the movie sports a few dull patches and the occasional baffling misstep…The Artist is the kind of lark you’d happily see more of.”
Another view With its eyebrow perpetually arched, this year’s Best Picture winner pays tribute to the era before spoken cinematic dialogue without having anything of substance to say. Like his prior OSS 117 spy spoofs, which also starred Jean Dujardin, writer-director Michel Hazanavicius’s black-and-white silent-film homage peddles a superficial type of cinephilia. The film oozes affection but—unlike Martin Scorsese’s far more heartfelt and complex Hugo—shows little critical thought, instead employing its old-Hollywood tropes (Academy ratio, phony sets) as gimmicky devices that fail to capture the lyrical, expressive poetry of the finest silents’ melodrama.
The Artist is an insufferably self-conscious trifle that concerns the fall of silent star George Valentin (Dujardin)—a dashing, tuxedoed egomaniac with a pencil-thin mustache, slicked-back hair and cocky grin—whose career and life tank as talkies become the fad. That development coincides with the rise of starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), whose path he intermittently crosses from 1927 to 1931, and whose fondness for him inevitably leads to romance and redemption.
Replete with intertitles, iris shots and other period-specific flourishes, The Artist remains reasonably true to the genre with which it’s smitten. Alas, given its gratingly broad turns from Dujardin, Bejo and a supporting cast that includes James Cromwell (as Valentin’s butler) and John Goodman (as the cigar-chomping studio mogul)—not to mention Valentin’s pooch sidekick, whose role is a catalog of isn’t-he-cute? reaction shots—the action always feels like a facsimile, more interested in winking at viewers than telling a genuinely moving, emotionally complex love story. This is a film so pleased with itself, it barely requires an audience. (Available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Tue 26.)