For Reel

The Artist (2011)
March 18, 2012, 9:03 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

With mainstream American cinema at its loudest and most vulgar, it was inevitable that a passive backlash would come in the form of the charming nostalgia of Hugo and The Artist. Although the former is perhaps weightier, its self-seriousness in dealing with film history seemed to appeal more to the already initiated than those who see movies as something to do while eating popcorn. The Artist, however, has proved alluring no matter the audience, thanks largely to its charismatic leads. As little as Hazanavicius’ aesthetic matches films of the twenties – as has been pointed out, the picture formally more resembles one of the forties – its narrative nonetheless reinforces the lasting power of moving images, paying tribute to one of our greatest traditions. It was the Cahiers du Cinéma critics that validated Hollywood pictures for many thinkers, and it is fitting that, once again, an outside production has reminded Americans of the great potential of their cinema and of the lasting figures of Hollywood’s silver screen – on-screen personas like the acrobatic Douglas Fairbanks, or the great, romantic directors such as Frank Borzage. As much as The Artist does spin its wheels in the second third – it is not without coincidence that it is at its weakest when Jean Dujardin is at his least animated – there are enough scenes that are so infectiously joyous that the sum of the parts is impossible to resist.

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