The Artist (Blu-ray)

July 11, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

The title “Best Picture winner” doesn’t quite mean what it used to.  When you look at some of the moves that have come home with the big prize, some are obviously better than others.  A true classic will withstand the test of time while others might be forgotten about.  Take a look at the movie that’s widely considered the best of all-time: Citizen Kane –  It lost out to How Green Was My Valley! What I’m trying to say is that the movie that wins “Best Picture” isn’t always the best of the year.  In the last couple of years the “Academy” has seen fit to give us a few more options for Best Picture. This is obviously a scheme to give a more diverse group of selections come ballot time, but is it really needed?  I’ll leave that argument for another time and, as it stands, The Artist did come home with the title this year.  Yes, let me say that again…The Artist, a movie shot in black and white and full-frame about the transition from silent films to “talkies” won Best Picture in 2012.  Sounds a bit familiar, no?  All that aside, let’s take a look at this year’s Best Picture winner and see what it’s all about.

Georges Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the top of his game. He’s charming, handsome and the king of Hollywood.  As fate would have it, he bumps into (literally) wide-eyed starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo).  There’s talk, pardon the pun, in Tinseltown, about films that can speak!  Georges wants no part of it and remains loyal to what’s made him a star.  Peppy, using her encounter with Georges to get her foot in the door, starts to make her mark in films as well.  The story follows Georges’ downfall coupled with the rise of Peppy’s.  As Georges loses his money and possessions, Peppy still has a soft spot in her heart for Georges. But Georges has burned his bridges and has hit rock bottom.  He can’t even afford to pay his chauffeur (James Cromwell) who also happens to be his best friend.  With the future looking bleak, what will the former King of Hollywood(land) do?  Can he ever recover or will the system get the best of him?

It’s still a bit perplexing to me how a film like The Artist even came to be in 2012.  I watched it right after I received the 60th Anniversary Edition of Singin’ in the Rain and there’s no doubt that the two have some obvious parallels.  While the former film has certainly withstood the test of time, I wonder what the future has in store for The Artist?  The film took home 5 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director and Actor among others and Jean Dujardin did do wonderfuly in his role despite only havint two words of spoken dialogoe.  That, my friends, is acting!  I suppose I always warm up to the Best Picture winners after a while, though the last Best Picture winner that I wanted to win was Slumdog Millionaire. Regardless of your personal feelings for this film, it is well-written, acted and directed and if anything, it might show a new generation of movie-goers that despite dialogue, films could make you laugh…and cry.

Video: How does it look?

I’m literally sitting here chuckling to myself as I write a review of a new to Blu-ray film (in 2012) that’s shot in full-frame and in black and white.  Did we take a trip back in time 70 years?  To the filmmakers’ credit, they wanted to make The Artist as genuine as possible and with these specifiations, it’s about as real as we can make it in  present day.  That said, the image looks very sharp and well-defined.  The 1.33:1 AVC HD image looks very strong and consistent throughout.  Contrast and black levels play more of a part here than in other films as shadows seem dark and rich, not giving way to any blocking or errors.  Detail is great as well, but I just had a time getting past those black bars on the sides!  Yes, I’m spoiled I know.  Still, all of these “setbacks” are intentional and the movie does have a look that’s all its own.

Audio: How does it sound?

Again, it’s hard to describe a movie that, for all intents and purposes, is “silent” when you’re trying to describe the audio.  While there’s only a handful of spoken dialogue in the film, there’s a constant score that plays throughout.  So if you’re going into the film expecting to read the whole time – you won’t.  And while on that, not everything that the actors “say” is translated to a placard (there’s a lot of inference).  Still, the score hums along and though we don’t get a whole lot of action out of the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, it more than serves its purpose. Don’t expect a lot out of this one audio-wise and you’ll be better off.

Supplements: What are the extras?

While there aren’t a ton of supplements for this Best Picture winner, we do get a sampling that will have to tide us over until the inevidable “Special Edition” comes out.  We start off with the Blooper Reel which is just a couple of minutes of some blown takes.  “The Artist: The Making of an American Romance” is the first of a few featurettes and we do get a look at the film, the characters and the themes within.  There’s nothing too in-depth here, but it’s an interesting watch for sure.  “Q & A with the Filmmaker and Cast” is a much more in-depth look at the film as most of the cast and crew are interviewed about their respective roles.  “Hollywood as a Character” is just that, a look at some of the locales shown in the movie.  Finally we get four short features in “The Artisans Behind The Artist Featurettes” in which we see some bits from the production design, costumes, score and cinematography.  There’s not a lot to be gleamed here, but it’s nice to have nonetheless.

Disc Scores