The Artist, Blu-ray/Ultraviolet (2012)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller
Music: Ludovic Bource
Studio: Studio 37/Sony Pictures 40027 [6/26/12]
Video: 1.33:1 B & W 1080p HD
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Blooper reel, “The Artist: The Making of an American Romance,” Q&A with filmmakers and cast, “Hollywood as a Character: The Locations of The Artist,” The artisans behind The Artist featurettes
Length: 100 minutes
Voted the Best Movie of the Year by many critics, The Artist won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The director and French crew all came to Hollywood to shoot the film in actual locations, and had great production people to make it look like the Hollywood of the late 1920s. Mostly silent, with a large symphonic score, and in black and white, few had believed The Artist was going to be the huge success it has been.
Starting in 1927, the film covers several years, as the talkies begin to take over the movie business and silent film superstar George Valentin’s career is cut short and he falls into oblivion. Conversely, the sky is the limit for the pert young actress/dancer Peppy Miller, who has a major crush on Valentin. With his marriage falling apart, George is also interested in Peppy, but their two careers go in opposite directions. In the end he is rescued by Peppy and the two dance their way into talkie musicals.
The cinematography is gorgeous, and many of the elements of great silent films, but not exaggerating or parodying them. The grey scale is very wide and the music supports the on-screen action beautifully. At the height of emotional tenseness Bource employs the actual Bernard Hermann theme from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The story is nothing spectacular; it partakes of A Star is Born, Singing in the Rain and others, but both lead actors are so likable and appropriate that one can’t help but be nuts about them. Their faces have to communicate much more in this silent film than in a typical sound film, and their chemistry is clearly there. Then there’s the amazing cuteness of Valentin’s dog Uggie. The whole production is a sort of love letter to the silent film era in Hollywood.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.