Artist, The (Blu-ray) (2011)
Featurette-Making Of-The Artist: The Making of an American Romance
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Q&A
Featurette-Making Of-The Artisans Behind The Artist
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Hollywood as a Character
|Year Of Production||2011|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Michel Hazanavicius|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Penelope Ann Miller
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English Descriptive Audio||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Producer of The Artist, Thomas Langmann, probably wasn't kidding when he said that he and director Michel Hazanavicius went to a lot of very short meetings trying to get funding for their film. The moment he explained to prospective financiers that the film would be black and white and silent they were quickly shown the door!
If for nothing else The Artist is a remarkable achievement in bringing to the screen an art form presumed long dead-the silent movie. Yet The Artist is much more than simply an homage to early cinema. It is a well acted, well directed movie which defied expectations to earn a significant dollar at the box office.
I recall listening to a podcast from the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where the critic spoke in glowing terms of this strange, daring black-and-white silent movie and how it transcended the seeming limitations its set for itself and achieved cinematic grandeur. The film was pipped for the Palm D'Or but still brought home a Best Actor award for lead actor Jean Dujardin. Fortunately for the producer and director the film was picked up by the Weinstein Company which not only gave it the financial backing to be promoted and exhibited in the United States as a "normal" movie but also gave it the benefit of an experienced campaigner in assaults on the Oscars.
The rest is history. The film won five Academy Awards including Best Picture as well as awards for Best Actor, Best Director Costumes and Musical Score. Debate continues to rage on message boards as to whether the film deserved this accolade and will probably continue to do so for years to come. My own favourite film from last year, The Tree of Life, has had equal, if not more, rabid debate.
The story of The Artist is necessarily a simple one to accommodate the lack of dialogue and is sparing use of intertitles. It is Hollywood. 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is an actor at the very top of his game. His latest film, starring him and his lovable terrier sidekick Jack (Uggie the dog,) has been a great success. At the premiere George and Jack takes standing ovations from the crowd whilst his co-star (Missi Pyle) glowers in the wings as he arrogantly ignores her.
George lives with his wife (Penelope Ann Miller) in a Hollywood mansion and has all the trappings of success including a giant portrait of himself and Jack. The future is bright.
Whilst entertaining the press George is accidentally bumped by a young dancer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Initially shocked he makes light of it and the Press prints a picture of the two of them with the headline "who's that girl?" When they meet again George presses his producer (John Goodman) to give her a small role. In the tiniest of moments, when George and Peppy are together for the scene it is clear that they have something special together.
Peppy is a star on the rise. As the years passed so comes the advent of sound. George is dismissive whereas Peppy embraces the new format. The result we all know. Sound is here to stay.
Unwilling to be involved in this new fad of talking movies George is dropped by the studio. Desperate to prove that silent is king he puts all his spare money into a self-directed silent movie. The movie premieres at the same time as Peppy's new talkie and George is embarrassed by the lack of audience. Financial woes pileup as 1929 is not only the year of The Jazz Singer but also the great stock market crash. George is ruined. His wife leaves him and his only companions are Jack and his loyal chauffer (James Cromwell).
Throughout this change of fortunes one idea remains constant. That Peppy and George are made for each other.
The story line may be slight however there are moments of genuine emotion in the film. Directors have long known that dialogue is unnecessary to convey meaning and emotion however none have dared (Mel Brook's Silent Movie doesn't count) to make a love story where no words are spoken. It doesn't always work and there are several moments that feel strained as though the artifice has overtaken the substance of the piece. In ten years time, the film will be fonder in the memory of those who have a love of classic cinema than perhaps the average moviegoing public.
For my part I came away a little disappointed. I had missed the film in the cinema and perhaps the hype has ovetaken it. I had come to expect nothing short of magic. Perhaps a rewatch is in order but too often I found myself admiring the skill and audacity of the film without engaging in its heart.
The Artist was shot on 35mm film and is presented on Blu-ray close to the cinematic 1.37:1 aspect ratio.
The image quality of the film is clear throughout.It is an attractive black and white film but not noticeably better looking than the radiant Casablanca. The filmmaker uses techniques to differentiate between segments of movies i.e. the films within the films, heavier grain is used for those moments.
In order to convey the silent movie era to the utmost degree the film was shot at 22 frames per second instead of the usual 24. This makes the characters seem to move a little faster.
The film is well lit and the shades of grey are well handled. There are no problems of compression and no artefacts or other defects.
There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.
The Artist features a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
This is a silent film with the exception of two key moments. The sub-woofer is used to great effect in one of those moments but otherwise is merely used to support the musical score. The surround effects are also used at this time.
Otherwise, the only sound to be heard through the entire movie is the musical score of Ludovic Bource. The score was the recipient of an Oscar and it is clear to see why. Not only is it perhaps the longest score in recent memory, filling 100 min almost entirely with music but it is all so a clever homage to silent movie scores which sounds both fresh and traditional. The score is jauntly when it needs to be as well as carrying some of the emotional scenes both of love and despair.
|Surround Channel Use|
This Blu-Ray edition also contains a digital copy of the film for those who want to watch it on other devices.
This is a reasonably comprehensive Making of featurette. The title itself is a little bit irksome. This is really a French film that got widespread release through American money. To be fair it was shot in Hollywood however the fact is that actors such as Malcolm McDowell, who appear in the movie very briefly, are given far more time to comment then the French crew. Leaving that aside, this is an entertaining piece which contains interviews with the various cast members as well as the director.
This session hosted by Matt Holzman is lengthy and allows for a slightly deeper understanding of the basis on creation of the film. The lineup features producer Langmann, director Hazanavicius, leads Bejo and Dujardin (with interpreter when needed) and American actors James Cromwell and Missi Pyle. The panel are led through a series of questions about the production including the challenges of working in the silent movie genre and everyone gets some time to comment.
As you can see from the times above they are all quite short and some of the material is repeated. In the production design featurette PD Larry Bennett talks about the use of Hollywood backlot is as well as the houses of the silent movie stars to create an authentic look for the film. The cinematography featurette is frustratingly short with James Cromwell providing his thoughts on the qualities.
The costumes feature is probably the best as the costume designer Mark Bridges takes us through the process and difficulties of sourcing the costumes from the era and then thinking about them in terms of the black-and-white photography. He points out that on some occasions the scenes in colour would have looked totally wrong but in black-and-white images are perfect.
Finally, the music section is also a slightly lightweight with the composer talking about his inspiration-the great scores of Steiner, Korngold, Waxman and Herrmann. As some may know there was a degree of controversy when Kim Novak pointed out that the love scene from Vertigo was used prominently in the film. The director responded with some puzzlement. After all, they had applied for and paid for the rights to use the music in the scene.
This is essentially an extended version of the featurette on production design. It looks at the key locations, including the Bradbury Hotel which was used in its pre-restored state in Blade Runner. The actual house where George lived and Peppy's house are both classic Hollywood mansions including one where silent star Mary Pickford lived.
A short series of silent bloopers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The versions from other Regions are pretty much identical. The French edition has a commentary track and some other extras but no English subtitles.
The Artist is, as said, a remarkable achievement the likes of which we are unlikely to see again. For fans of movies in movie history this would seem an essential purpose. Shorn of the technical achievement it is probably not a great movie but it is nevertheless an enjoyable one.
The sound and vision are of high quality.
The extras are a little slight but still interesting.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|