is a 2011 French film emulating the style of cinema in the 1920's, and the Academy Award
winner for Best Picture of the year. Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and produced by Thomas Langmann, it stars Jean Dujardin as George Valentin, a silent movie star in 1920s Hollywood whose career goes into decline with the Great Depression and the advent of talking pictures. He falls in love with a young ingenue named Peppy Miller, played by Berenice Bejo, whose Hollywood career arc is the exact opposite of Valentin's.The Artist
is unique not just for being shot in black-and-white, and in the old 4:3 Aspect Ratio
, but being an almost completely silent film
, possibly the first feature-length Silent Movie
to receive wide distribution since Mel Brooks
put out Silent Movie
in 1976. It should also be noted that this is one of the first Best Picture Oscar winners in years to be filmed entirely in Hollywood, the first black and white film to win Best Picture since 1993's Schindlers List
and the first silent movie to win Best Picture since Wings
way back in 1927. It also won 4 other Oscars including Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin.
This film provides exampless of:
- Mood Whiplash: And how!
- My God, What Have I Done?: When George jolts back to his senses after burning his precious films and realizes he might have also destroyed his precious raw footage of dancing with Peppy.
- My God, You Are Serious: Clifton, you're fired.
- No Antagonist: The real problem is George's refusal to change with the times, and his downfall as a result.
- Al Zimmer is somewhat depicted as the antagonist, since his firing of George sets him on his downward spiral.
- No Hero to His Valet: Valentin actually is, apparently, a hero to his valet, but he is both a jerk to his costar and a neglectful husband.
- No Name Given: George's dog is listed in the credits as "The Dog".
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: At the beginning of the movie, Valentin's character is locked in a cell very securely. The movie cuts to the audience reaction as they gasp at his escape and then the movie cuts back to him out of the cell.
- Old Retainer: Clifton. By choice, though.
- Pet the Dog: A literal example. George's devotion to his adorable dog indicates right from the start that he's a good guy at heart.
- Pink Elephants: While getting hammered in a bar George hallucinates a tiny vision of himself (and some of the African supporting players) from the Film Within A Film "Tears of Love".
- Pornstache: George's pencil mustache is eventually replaced by this.
- Post Modern: This film establishes very clear boundaries for its medium, then breaks them. Specifically, the scene in this otherwise silent movie that begins with George audibly placing his glass on the dresser, and then the entire scene spiraling out of control as he learns everything makes sound BUT him. It is, of course, a nightmare, but still. The end also violates the boundaries of silent film, indicating George's acceptance of talkies.
- In addition, the way George is shown putting the gun in his mouth is another modern-day touch that would never be seen in a film of the era.
- Peppy's "dialogue" scene with Al in which she says "it's either him or me" and then sputters though a few "what I meant to says" is a dialogue trope more common to modern-day cinema in part because silent films could not rely on such wordplay. One of the dialogue cards also includes the word "damn" which, while not unheard of in cinema at the time, was all but banned from American cinema until the late 1930s as the makers of Gone with the Wind discovered.
- Constance gives George "the finger" early on in the film, an act that would not have been allowed in American cinema of the day. (Except for that one time when it was!) As noted below, lip-readers may also detect the F-word as well; there is a longstanding Hollywood legend that many actors did swear on screen during the silent era, assuming no one could read their lips.
- Precision F-Strike: A visual one: George's leading lady gives him the finger. It also serves as a clue to the audience that this film won't quite behave like an old silent-movie. Though if you pay attention to her lips, you can see she's also a silent Cluster F-Bomb...
- Pride: George's biggest fault. Clifton even warns him against it when Peppy wants to give him another chance.
- Quicksand Sucks: The ending to George's movie Tears of Love, complete with a Last Grasp at Life.
- Rage Against the Reflection: George tipping his drink over his reflection in a table.
- Reality Subtext: In-universe, the final scene of Tears of Love where George's character sinks in quicksand.
- Retraux: The whole film, really.
- The Roaring Twenties: First part takes place at the end of it, and the arrival of The Great Depression kicks off Valentin's downfall.
- Rule of Cute: George toting his dog everywhere, including into a movie theater.
- Rule of Symbolism: The crooked frame in the bar where George gets smashed. Also note that whenever there's a staircase in the movie, Peppy will no doubt be going up whilst George will only go down.
- Running Gag: The dog plays dead whenever someone makes a motion like shooting a gun.
- The score includes quite a lengthy sample of the love theme from, of all movies, Vertigo. George's nightmare about sound is also very Hitchcock-esque.
- The old movie that George watches on a home projector just before his breakdown is an actual silent movie, The Mark of Zorro, with Jean Dujardin inserted in close-ups in place of Douglas Fairbanks. In fact, George's whole on-screen persona, as present in the Films Within The Film, pretty strongly resembles Fairbanks.
- The solution to Valentin's career problems is straight out of Singin' in the Rain. The basic plot of the film is also similar to that film, and the character of Constance in particular is very reminiscent of Jean Hagen's Lina Lamont in the earlier film.
- Valentin's very name is a Shout-Out to Rudolph Valentino, arguably the first and most famous silent movie star of the twenties.
- Valentin's career problems mirror those of romantic silent film star John Gilbert, who drank himself to death when his career tanked after the transition to talkies. George eventually becomes an expy of Fred Astaire (complete with a set straight out of one of his films!), and bears a strong physical resemblance to Clark Gable.
- Valentin's defiant effort to make a silent film with his own money with the rise of sound films is similar to Charlie Chaplin's stubborn efforts in making the largely silent films, City Lights and Modern Times, but Charlie's films were big hits. George... not so much.
- The policeman running to save George's life from his self-inflicted fire is reminiscent of the next-to-last scene of Les Quatre Cents Coups
- Peppy gives a shout out to Greta Garbo's famous line in the 1932 film Grand Hotel by telling her date, "I want to be alone."
- George and Doris' simmering hostility at the dinner table recalls the same between Kane and his first wife in Citizen Kane.
- Show Within a Show: We see a number of George's and Peppy's films.
- And, of course, the closing number.
- Silence Is Golden: Used to very great effect — three scenes total use sound, and they're all jarring. A couple of scenes are completely silent, with no music.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Peppy's first "big" role has her name misspelled as "Pepi".
- Spinning Paper: Done as Peppy rises to the top of stardom.
- Spiritual Antithesis: To Singin' in the Rain. Both movies take place in '20s era Hollywood during the time when studios were making a shift to "talkies." While Singin was a light-hearted movie about a studio's attempt to adapt to these changes, The Artist was a darker movie, showing what happened to the actors who couldn't make the jump from Silent Films to films with sound.
- Stalker with a Crush: Peppy is a benevolent one towards George.
- Suddenly Voiced: The ending. Also doubles up as Suddenly Ethnicity, because George's accent reveals he's French.
- Take That: In universe, Tears of Love is a thinly veiled rebuke to Peppy's success.
- Timmy in a Well: Played straight, even if the policeman in question is skeptical at first.
- Title Drop: In a newspaper headline.
- Trampled Underfoot: George's poster, in the aftermath of Tears of Love bombing in theaters.
- Trash the Set: George destroying his projector and film collection.
- Undying Loyalty: Clifton refuses to leave George even after George can't afford to pay him, and ultimately lets George move in with him.
- When She Smiles: Invoked with Peppy's screen persona.
- White Dwarf Star: George in the second half of the movie.
- Whole Plot Reference: The premise is more than a little bit similar to the first two incarnations of A Star Is Born.
- Singin' in the Rain is virtually a spiritual predecessor regarding the transition to talkies, though focused as a character piece on the emotional trials of the time period.
- Charlie Chaplin's Limelight (though happier).
- Wipe: Another effect from the silent era.
- Women Drivers: Brakes? Telephone poles are Peppy's brakes!