Steele’s Reels: ‘The Artist’



By Dave Steele

Set in Hollywood during the roaring ’20s, “The Artist” is a silent film — about silent films.

Superstar George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is relishing his fame and fortune in the industry. Crowds line the block to see his latest pictures.

After the flashy premiere of his latest film, a beautiful and giddy fan hoping for an autograph crosses Valentin’s path. When he sees her, he graciously offers an opportunity to pose for pictures. Unable to contain her excitement, she kisses him on the cheek just before the press snap the picture.

With the entire film industry pondering the identity of this girl, the driven Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) takes it upon herself to use the buzz as a springboard for her acting career. With the advice and connections of the famous Valentin at her disposal, Miller rises quickly in the silent movie scene.

However, during the peak of their fame, the new technology of sound begins to take Hollywood by storm. Miller embraces the new direction, while the arrogant Valentin refuses to change his style. The two actors head in completely opposite directions in terms of success when Miller’s career begins to completely overshadow Valentin’s.

When “The Artist” began, I was completely immersed in the time period it portrayed. The older 4:3 aspect ratio, combined with the black and white film immediately set the tone for that authentic ’20s feel.

The film’s silence was such a different experience because the story’s delivery relied entirely on how the exaggerated facial expressions of the actors flowed with the speed and intensity of the orchestra’s score.

This pulled me into a completely new state of “attention to detail,” because I was forced to focus on this different method of delivery.

The result was truly incredible to say the least. It opened up so many doors of appreciation that today’s movies have suffocated with special effects and over-production.

Director and writer Michel Hazanavicius certainly did his homework. It truly felt like watching a film that was made 70 years ago. The fact that this film was made in 35 days makes him more than worthy of the Best Director Oscar.

The performances by Dujardin and Bejo also earned them the well-deserved nominations of Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards.

Dujardin’s performance was so convincing that it also earned him the Oscar.

In the end, the authentic delivery of the times through the acting and production made this the most enjoyable movie of the year for me.

The Academy had a similar experience with the film and awarded it Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards.

I highly recommend seeing it at The Kentucky Theater while the it is still in its re-release. I’m so glad I did.

Steele’s Reels: 5/5 Stars