Films: The Artist

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    Ellie Caulkins Opera House


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The Artist

The Artist

France, 2011, 100 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Art/Filmmaking, Historical/Period, Silent Film
Programs: Contemporary World Cinema, Red Carpet Events
Language: English, French English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius
Producer: Thomas Langmann, Emmanuel Montamat
Editor: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michek Hazanavicius
Screenwriter: Michel Hazanavicius
Cinematographer: Guillaume Schiffman
Principal Cast: Jean Dujardin, James Cromwell, John Goodman, Penelope Miller, Missi Pyle

MUST END Thursday, April 26th at the Denver FilmCenter/Colfax
For French director Michel Hazanavicius, the notion of making a silent film in black and white amid the ceaseless noise of the 21st century goes back seven or eight years. “No one took me seriously,” he says. But here it is, an old-fashioned silent, set in Hollywood in 1927, just as The Jazz Singer was changing the entertainment industry forever. The lovers at its center are a dashing matinee idol named George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), whose career is about to collapse, and Peppy Miller (Bérénice Béjo), an anonymous female extra destined to become a star of talking pictures.

That plotline, of course, echoes a raft of sound-era classics—Singin' in the Rain, A Star Is Born, and Sunset Boulevard among them. But Hazanavicius has silence on the brain: in writing and directing The Artist, he studied F. W. Murnau classics like Sunrise and City Girl; King Vidor's The Crowd; and works by Fritz Lang, Tod Browning, and Erich von Stroheim—all to rediscover the language of silent filmmaking. Still, he wisely stayed away from one giant of the time. “[Charles Chaplin] is so far above the rest,” Hazanavicius acknowledges, “that what is true for him is true only for him.”

When Mel Brooks tried to revive the art of Chaplin and Keaton in 1976 with Silent Movie, the results were hit-and-miss. With The Artist, another devoted student of cinema may just have succeded. Photographed in classic style by Guillaume Schiffman and featuring an original score by Ludovic Bource, this daring experiment features some Hollywood favorites in supporting roles: say (or mouth) hello again to John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Penelope Ann Miller.

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