A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features Newswire TV Club Classic
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios

The Artist 

B+
B+

The Artist

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell

Community Grade (181 Users)

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F

Your Grade

?

French director Michel Hazanavicius makes movies for movie buffs—up to a point. His two OSS 117 spy spoofs are packed with film references and direct parody; his latest, the Cannes-acclaimed black-and-white silent feature The Artist, consciously draws on decades of Hollywood features. But for viewers who will get all the in-jokes and call-outs, the film may seem too familiar. There’s a fine line between homage and just repeating well-known stories.

OSS 117 star Jean Dujardin (who won Best Actor at Cannes for this role) brings his usual million-dollar smile to the role of a silent-cinema star who’s on top of the world until the advent of talkies, which he dismisses as a fad, leaving the world to pass him by. Meanwhile, a starstruck fan he meets in a crowd (Bérénice Bejo) rockets to stardom, but never forgets her crush on him, and continues to admire him from afar (and sometimes a-near) as he slides toward irrelevance. Hazanavicius scripts and directs broadly; as with classic silent features, the emotions are meant to play clearly even without dialogue, but even so, Hazanavicius sometimes overplays his hand with lead-footed symbolism. One particularly obvious scene has Dujardin and Bejo stopping for a bittersweet conversation on a Hollywood studio stairwell; he’s headed down and out of the building, she’s going up and in, but they pause for a moment in the middle, with him looking up soulfully at her newly lofty position. Later, a shot of his latest movie poster, lying discarded in the rain and being stepped on by oblivious passers-by, offers a similarly corny summary of his situation.

That said, Hazanavicius never set out to be subtle; the opening shot of Dujardin, playing the hero in a movie-within-a-movie, being interrogated and stolidly proclaiming that the baddies can’t make him talk, ably lays out the film’s wink-wink self-awareness and sense of humor. As with the OSS films, catching the many references is part of the fun: The story meshes Singin’ In The Rain with A Star Is Born by way of Buster Keaton, the soundtrack covers the gamut from silent classics to Alfred Hitchcock, and even Dujardin’s ubiquitous cute-dog companion recalls The Thin Man. And by nature, The Artist is a charming romance, in which two naturally winning people are denied what they want just long enough to make audiences feel satisfied when everyone’s needs are finally met. It’s a beautifully shot, beautifully acted piece of fluff.