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Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.
For more about The Artist and the The Artist Blu-ray release, see the The Artist Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 16, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
» See full cast & crew
The Artist Blu-ray Review
The Artist currently known as Oscar.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 16, 2012
The world is now talking.
Indeed, the entire world is now talking about the modern silent movie The Artist, a handsome, breezy, fun, and particularly well-made throwback that tells the story of the end of the Silent era in (relatively) silent form. Director Michel Hazanavicius (The Players) keeps the movie fresh and fast, easily recapturing the magic and glamour and particulars of a bygone era even in the here-and-now, in a world of blazing-fast spectacle and motion-as-cinema. The Artist plays as do those baseball games that are so popular anymore, the ones where the traditional teams and their current modern players dress up in the bulky old-school getups in an effort to recreate the look of the game as it was in the olden days, while the electronic signage and between-inning entertainment videos and rocking music and inter-inning races featuring dead presidents and overstuffed pierogies and uncooked sausages effort to keep the fans in the game, because suddenly the "as it was" isn't good enough anymore, except on those rare occasions when "as it was" returns in gimmick form not to keep the past alive, but to salute father time and the roots of progress. That's The Artist, an early 21st century take on an early 20th century style. And as baseball remains baseball whether a player walks up to the dish with his favorite song blaring in the background while wearing a more form-fitting jersey and with his pant legs scraping the ground or in silence with a baggy top and socks up to his knees, so does The Artist and movies remain art and movies, whether the characters speak, objects make sound, color fills in black and white, or it hails from 1928 or 2011.
Silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) just can't get enough of himself. He soaks up attention like a long-dried sponge absorbs some much-needed water. He's larger than life and, in his mind, larger even than his projected image which appears on the big screen. Following the successful premiere of his latest hit, he has a run-in with a beautiful girl named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) while in the midst of an eager press corps. Suddenly, George and Peppy are the talk of the tabloids and entertainment rags. They appear together on the cover of Variety, angering Kinograph Studios bossman Al Zimmer (John Goodman) because the added press for his star means news of the movie's successful debut has been relegated to page five. Soon, Peppy's living the dream up on the silver screen, first as an extra and, with every new picture, moving on up the credit list until she's poised to become Kinograph's newest and hottest attraction. In fact, she's the perfect face -- complete with her painted-on beauty mark courtesy of none other than George himself -- to head up Kinograph's new sound division, which Zimmer and company believe to be the future of filmed entertainment. But George will have none of this talking business. He sets out to prove that silent films remain king, financing his own project while Kinograph and Peppy set out to make history -- and a fortune. Can George's silent holdout make a handsome return on investment while proving the staying power of a dying way of doing things, or will Peppy's stardom and the success of the talkie convince him to change with the times?
The Artist offers a pleasant reprieve from the cookie-cutter pictures of today, those sorts that expect audiences to cheer for digital performances, precision sound engineering, and lighting-quick editing rather than raw, on-screen human performance art. The picture extends a welcoming hand back into a time and place that's not exactly unidentifiable, but certainly a little more personal, not quite so stock or hackneyed but rather reliant on charm and personality to woo audiences into buying more of what the studios were (and are, with The Artist) selling. Cinema wasn't so much a drug then as it is now; The Artist looks and feels like a movie, but it doesn't have that same detached, out-of-body, totally bereft of reality effect that so many modern pictures yield. It's a bit more approachable and likable for what comes out of it rather than what goes into it. The narrative explodes from the glance and the glimpse and the music and the moves. It's the simplest sort of moving picture storytelling and arguably the better kind, where simple is better and past simple does more for the constant of thematic complex than the modern involved does for the constant of thematic complex. Though words are limited to text and sounds beyond the orchestra to the audience's reaction, The Artist tells a more complete story than do many modern movies with the entire arsenal of added speech, sound, and even dimensions at their disposal. And that's not to say that modern technology hasn't produced some fantastic motion pictures -- it has -- but The Artist does more than simply demonstrate the past, it brings it to life and, even more important, shows modern audiences that today's tools of the trade aren't the end-all, be-all of moviemaking, that the core is what matters, that movies are still movies no matter what's added or subtracted, just as baseball will always be baseball regardless of supporting digital content, in-game entertainment, or uniform appearance.
The Artist may be best described as "classy," a picture of high regard for the past and constructed with an evident dedication to preserving the authentic look and feel of the time it so uncannily captures both in style and narrative. Indeed, that's the truly fascinating element here, the way the movie so easily tells a tale of a bygone era through that era's particular lens. The narrative is in constant motion, a steady state of flux, as the picture's world changes its characters as they either happily, reluctantly, or otherwise transition towards new beginnings. Habit and routine are stubborn creatures to be sure, but The Artist demonstrates that even as things change, they never quite go away, and it's often easier to look backwards than it is to move forwards. The Artist celebrates the past in recreating it, and it does so with flair and fun, style and precision. The picture is gorgeously assembled and detailed right down to the faintest trace of makeup and the smallest little background detail. Even as the movie settles into something of an unknown quantity, it proves incredibly easy to both accept and digest its unique throwback brand of simple. The performances, along with the steady diet of the past recreated to perfection, are largely responsible for selling the movie and making it work. Leads Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo dazzle with a spunk and uncanny understanding of the inner-workings and idiosyncrasies of the silent star. They don't appear learned performers but rather living testimonials to the way things were, how actors acted and shaped stories in the days of the silents. The Artist dazzles with every new scene and through its simple take on the thematic complex, but it's the precision way in which everything comes together to create a movie straight out of the late 1920s and early 1930s about the late 1920s and early 1930s that makes the movie such a wonderful time capsule, even if the only thing that's not authentic is the production date.
The Artist Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Artist performs on Blu-ray via a handsome black-and-white 1080p transfer which retains the picture's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, placing vertical black bars on either side of the 1.78:1 high definition display surface. This is a rich, steady, visually captivating sort of transfer that serves up impressive detailing and clarity throughout. Early shots inside a cinema reveal precise audience member facial shapes and details from the front row to the back, a fine example of the transfer's crispness and stability. Period clothing textures impress, as do Los Angeles exteriors and interiors. Fine facial details, right down to the last freckle, lip lines, makeup powders, and natural creases, are plainly revealed in every scene. The black-and-white photography remains balanced and true throughout, with strong, steady black levels that never overwhelm the darkest corners of the frame. The image can be a little soft around a few edges, and intermittent banding shows up to hinder a few backgrounds, but this is otherwise a resplendent Blu-ray transfer from Sony, one that shows the strengths of a good, firm black-and-white image presented lovingly and with care in high definition.
The Artist Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Artist speaks easy and carries a big DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. OK, so "speak" and "big" aren't quite right (but who can resist the play on words?); "reserved" is more like it. Though music enjoys an evident richness, nice front-side spacing, a slight but evident surround support element, and superb clarity, it never really extends much of a sonic muscle, playing things relatively light and easy at reference levels. This isn't a track to blow away audience members but rather subtly submerge them into the film's musical accompaniments. And to be sure, and despite an absence of raw volume, separation impresses as does clarity and precision throughout the entire range, from sharp highs to a heavy and accurate bottom. Yet the music tells the story sometimes with the same clarity of actor movement; it's a critical centerpiece that makes "silent" into "not-so-silent" and instead "musically critical." To discuss any further particulars of the soundtrack would be a disservice to the surprises the movie and several key scenes hold, but suffice it to say whatever -- if anything -- appears within this lossless body is handled with the expert care and attention to detail listeners have come to expect from Sony Blu-ray releases.
The Artist Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Artist contains a good assortment of extra content, including a lengthy Q&A session with the cast and crew, a making-of piece, and several smaller featurettes.
The Artist Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Artist represents moviemaking as it once was without most of today's tools, and while it looks and sounds and feels different, it's proof positive that a movie is still a movie by and through any fad or trend or technology. It's the story of two people moving artistically apart but in other ways together as all they've known changes for the better or for the worse. It's a tale of acceptance, moving forward, and honoring the past rather than unrealistically and stubbornly championing and clinging to it. The picture yields exceptional performances and a faultless throwback appearance. It's in every way the movie a movie about the movies in transition should be, and The Artist is one of the year's finest pictures. Sony's Blu-ray release of The Artist features great video and audio. Several supplements are included. Highly recommended.
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The Artist Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Artist Blu-ray (Updated) - April 9, 2012
In June, Sony Home Entertainment will release The Artist on Blu-ray. Director Michel Hazanavicius (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies) uses this ode to silent cinema to contrast a movie star (Jean Dujardin, OSS 117 - Lost in Rio) struggling with the transition into ...
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