Michel Hazanavicius

Scen., Dial.: Michel Hazanavicius; F.: Guillaume Schiffman; Mo.: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius; Scgf.: Laurence Bennett; Co.: Mark Bridges; Mu.: Ludovic Bource; Su.: Etienne Colin; Eff. Spec.: Chris Cline, David Waine; Int.: Jean Dujardin (George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller), John Goodman (Zimmer), James Cromwell (Clifton), Penelope Ann Miller (Doris), Missi Pyle (Constance), Beth Grant, Joel Murray, Malcolm McDowell; Prod.: Thomas Langmann, Emmanuel Montamat, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn per La Petite Reine; Pri. pro.: 17 maggio 2011. DCP.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

It is wonderful to see a moving image in the 4:3 format on a huge screen. That was how they saw Chaplin or Abel Gance at the Grauman Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles or at the Gaumont Palace in Place Clichy. It is even more wonderful when the image is in black and white and the lips of the actors move without issuing a single sound.

The morning of Sunday, May 15, we rediscovered the pleasure of silent film with Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, shown for the press at the Grand Théâtre Lumière in Cannes. And the pleasure continued after the first scenes, waves of laughter flowing through the audience without a line being said.

Michel Hazanavicius is a pastiche genius. The success of his two OSS 117 films is not only the fruit of the absurd lines and Jean Dujardin’s unbridled mockery, but also of the directing, crane movements that simultaneously imitate and transcend commercial French film of the ‘60s, a color palette of those times but infinitely richer.

The Artist was much more challenging. It sets out to re-create a foundational period of modern cinema (incidentally the subject of one of the greatest films of history – Singing in the Rain by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly): the explosion of sound, which turns George Valentin’s (Jean Dujardin) life upside down.

A seducer with a thin mustache like Douglas Fairbanks, hair slicked back like Rudolph Valentino, Valentin racks up success after success. In 1927 he crosses paths with Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a charming extra he loses track of before finding her face (…) on the cover of movie magazines. The starlet and the playboy meet up again, she a rising actress, he in decline, on October 25, 1929, the day of the premiere of their respective films and of the crash that led to the Great Depression. The first part of The Artist is told with compelling mastery. Michel Hazanavicius’s style incorporates pastiche; he skillfully recreates the pan and travelling shots of silent film, but when necessary he uses slightly more modern techniques. The actors do the same. Dujardin hams it up worse than Max Linder does as an actor at work, but between scenes, he is more nuanced, more realistic.

(…) There are also a few famous Hollywood faces that appear in this stunning reconstruction of bygone Los Angeles: John Goodman as the studio boss and James Cromwell as the faithful driver. Digital magic combines the magic effects of painted backgrounds with the intan- gible realism of pixels.

Thomas Sotinel, Le virtuose Michel Hazanavicius pastiche le cinéma des années 1920, “Le Monde”, May 16, 2011