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Blu-ray Reviews

The Artist Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 47 Richard Gallagher

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Posted June 21 2012 - 04:06 PM

The Artist, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2011, is charming, delightful and unforgettable. It now arrives on Blu-ray with a flawless transfer, wonderful sound (albeit almost entirely dialog-free) and an entertaining array of extras. It is a film which celebrates the history of Hollywood, and one which every lover of the cinema should see. It boasts a marvelous cast, gorgeous sets, outstanding music, and one of the most amusing and captivating performances by a dog even seen in a film.




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The Artist

Studio: Sony/The Weinstein Company
Year: 2011
Rated: PG-13
Program Length: 100 minutes                Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p Black & White
Languages: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

The Program

Why do you refuse to talk?

The Artist, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2011, is charming, delightful and unforgettable. It now arrives on Blu-ray with a flawless transfer, wonderful sound (albeit almost entirely dialog-free) and an entertaining array of extras. It is a film which celebrates the history of Hollywood, and one which every lover of the cinema should see. It boasts a marvelous cast, gorgeous sets, outstanding music, and one of the most amusing and captivating performances by a dog even seen in a film.

The year is 1927. and silent film actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the toast of Tinseltown. On the screen he plays a masked crime fighter who is assisted by a remarkable and resourceful canine. He is the undisputed star for the Kinograph Motion Picture Company, run by studio head Al Zimmer (John Goodman). The Artist opens at the premiere of George's last movie, "A Russian Affair." And what a premiere it is, taking place in one of Hollywood's finest movie palaces with musical accompaniment by a live orchestra. Afterwards George steps out onto the sidewalk, where he is greeted by adoring fans, newsmen and photographers. A young woman who has made her way to the front of the restraining rope accidentally drops her purse on the sidewalk. When she bends down to retrieve it, she loses her balance and bumps into George. He stares at her momentarily and then bursts into laughter. He then poses for photos with her, and the story of the "mystery woman" is on the front page of Variety the next morning.

The woman, we come to learn, is a vivacious and ambitious dancer named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). The next morning she arrives at the Kinograph studios for an audition with the issue of Variety in her hands. After an energetic display of dancing she is selected to be an extra in George's newest film. Later in the day George spots her while she is practicing her steps, and he is happy to see her again. Unfortunately for Peppy, studio honcho Zimmer is annoyed because the photographs of her with George knocked the coverage of "A Russian Affair" off the front page. Zimmer wants her off the set, but George intervenes and Peppy remains in the film. She and George are immediately attracted to one another, but George is married to Doris (Penelope Ann Miller). Doris and George live in opulence, but their relationship has soured and she is not happy to see the photos of her husband and Peppy in Variety. There is a wonderfully sensuous scene when Peppy goes into George's dressing room to thank him. He is not there, but she approaches his jacket, hanging on a coat rack, and almost brings it to life.

By 1929 Peppy has managed to carve out a successful career, but major changes in the film industry are looming. One day Zimmer invites George in a screening room to see a test screening for a sound film - a "talkie." George watches it for a few minutes with dismissive amusement, but the studio has seen the handwriting on the wall. When Kinograph decides to shut down production of silent films, George decides to produce and direct a film of his own. His timing could not have been worse. Audiences are no longer interested in silent films, and several days before the premiere of George's film the stock market crashes.

We have, of course, seen variations on this theme before - Singin' in the Rain, for example. But The Artist is not just a film about silent films - it is a silent film about silent films, and it helps us to appreciate just how wonderful the silent film era was. Jean Dujardin won the Academy Award for Best Actor and Michel Hazanavicius deservedly took home the Oscar for Best Director. Bérénice Bejo's delightful performance as Peppy garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and John Goodman is perfectly cast as the studio chief. The able supporting cast includes James Cromwell, Malcolm McDowell, Missi Pyle, and Ed Lauter. Astonishingly, there were news reports about filmgoers demanding refunds because The Artist has virtually no dialog - which just goes to prove that some people have no idea what they are missing. If you love the movies - and you must love them, or you would not be reading this - buy this Blu-ray, sit back, and savor it as often as you like.

The Video

The Artist is properly framed at 1.33:1 to approximate the experience of seeing a vintage silent film. The black and white images composed by cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman are striking and memorable, and his use of lighting is a wonder to behold. One unforgettable scene was shot at the Bradbury Building, a unique structure with an open atrium which was built in 1893 and has been restored to its original glory. Savvy viewers will note that the images in the screening room scene clearly were influenced by Citizen Kane. Other scenes were shot at vintage movie palaces and real period-piece mansions (including one once owned by Mary Pickford) in Hollywood. The picture is sharp, but not overly so, which good contrast and excellent shadow detail. Black levels are not as deep as one might anticipate, but remember that The Artist is recreating the look of a film from the Twenties, not a film noir from the Fifties. Special note should be made of the exceptional costumes, which won an Academy Award for designer Mark Bridges.

Readers of this review are well advised to take a look at the amusing comments by our resident expert, Robert Harris.

The Audio

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio is exceptional. As noted, there is virtually no dialog, but the Academy Award-winning original score by composer Ludovic Bource is catchy and does a terrific job of capturing the sound and feel of the Roaring Twenties. Music was an essential element of the silent film experience, and this soundtrack is certainly worthy of all the praise it has received. In addition to Bource's original music, The Artist also incorporates pieces by Bernard Herrmann, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Cole Porter, and Johannes Brahms.

There are occasional highly effective sound effects which will not be described here so as to avoid any spoilers.

The Supplements

The Blu-ray of The Artist contains a number of enjoyable and informative extras.

"The Artist: The Making of an American Romance" is a 22-minute "making of" featurette which includes comments by many members of the cast and crew and incorporates some footage and still photos of vintage silent films.

A Q&A session with the director and most of the principal actors has a running time of approximately 45 minutes. It was conducted at a theater in Los Angeles, but judging from the dress of the participants it was not the film's premiere.

"Hollywood as a Character: The Locations of The Artist" is perhaps my favorite extra. It takes us to the principal locations in Hollywood and provides background information about each. One interesting tidbit is that one of the scenes shows Jean Dujardin sleeping and sitting up in Mary Pickford's actual bed.

"The Artisans Behind The Artist" introduces us to Production Designer Laurence Bennett, Cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman, Costume Designer Mark Bridges, and Composer Ludovic Bource.

I am not a big fan of blooper reels, but two minutes of outtakes are included.

Also included are trailers for In the Land of Blood & Honey; Salmon Fishing in the Yemen; Tonight You're Mind; Bel Ami; My Week With Marilyn; and The Iron Lady.

The Packaging

The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case. There also is a sturdy outer sleeve which opens to reveal a few still photos from the film. Also included are instructions for downloading an UltraViolet copy of the film and information about how to enter a sweepstakes for a trip to Hollywood.

The Final Analysis

The Artist is one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in recent memory, and it is inspiring me to take another look at some of the silent films which I have in my collection. If you have avoided it because you believe that you do not like silent films, I encourage you to think again. This film is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face and some extra spring in your step.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: June 26, 2012

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Rich Gallagher

#2 of 47 Guest__*

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Posted June 21 2012 - 06:12 PM

My favorite film last year. I can't wait to own it.



#3 of 47 Ronald Epstein

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Posted June 21 2012 - 10:55 PM

Rich,


Had the opportunity to watch this on Blu-ray the other evening.


I agree that this is a highly enjoyable, feel-good movie.  It also

inspired me to look closer at silent movies.  Shortly after seeing

the film for the first time, I bought Wings on Blu-ray (which I also

enjoyed).


The transfer looks remarkable.


Thanks for the review.


Ronald J Epstein
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#4 of 47 Cameron Yee

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Posted June 22 2012 - 09:18 AM

I enjoy silent films (Metropolis probably being my favorite), but I'm in the "gimmick" camp regarding this film (but an entertaining gimmick mind you). When Hazanavicius won the award for Best Director, I couldn't help thinking

of Capt. Miller's last words in "Saving Private Ryan" - "Earn this."


So I'm more interested in what the director will be doing as a follow-up.


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#5 of 47 Colin Jacobson

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Posted June 22 2012 - 12:49 PM

Originally Posted by Cameron Yee 

I enjoy silent films (Metropolis probably being my favorite), but I'm in the "gimmick" camp regarding this film (but an entertaining gimmick mind you). When Hazanavicius won the award for Best Director, I couldn't help thinking

of Capt. Miller's last words in "Saving Private Ryan" - "Earn this."


So I'm more interested in what the director will be doing as a follow-up.


He's gonna do a talkie - a TRUE talkie.  That means there'll be no visuals - it'll just be a dialogue-only soundtrack that accompanies a black screen! Posted Image


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#6 of 47 Cameron Yee

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Posted June 22 2012 - 12:54 PM

That means by his third film he will have a "normal" film. :D
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#7 of 47 Brandon Conway

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Posted June 22 2012 - 01:09 PM

He did three feature films before The Artist:


Mes amis (1999)

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009)


I've seen the first OSS 117 film - it's a fun Bond-esque spoof. Dujardin plays a real chauvinist moronic prat and it's quite funny.


His fifth film, The Players (2012) has been out in various European countries since February.


He's in pre-production on his yet untitled sixth film.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#8 of 47 Richard Gallagher

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Posted June 22 2012 - 02:24 PM

Originally Posted by Brandon Conway 

He did three feature films before The Artist:


Mes amis (1999)

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)

OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009)


I've seen the first OSS 117 film - it's a fun Bond-esque spoof. Dujardin plays a real chauvinist moronic prat and it's quite funny.


His fifth film, The Players (2012) has been out in various European countries since February.


He's in pre-production on his yet untitled sixth film.


Deep Discount is selling the Blu-ray of OSS 117: Lost in Rio for $10.00.


Rich Gallagher

#9 of 47 Lord Dalek

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Posted June 23 2012 - 12:56 AM

Originally Posted by Cameron Yee 

I enjoy silent films (Metropolis probably being my favorite), but I'm in the "gimmick" camp regarding this film (but an entertaining gimmick mind you). When Hazanavicius won the award for Best Director, I couldn't help thinking

of Capt. Miller's last words in "Saving Private Ryan" - "Earn this."


So I'm more interested in what the director will be doing as a follow-up.


I agree. The guy's filmography (one short and a pair of spy spoofs) is about as thin as a ritz cracker. The whole thing reeks of the usual Weinstein payola scam the AMPAS just cant get out from under.



#10 of 47 Colin Jacobson

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Posted June 23 2012 - 06:04 AM

Originally Posted by Cameron Yee 

That means by his third film he will have a "normal" film. Posted Image


Nope - the one after that will be a silent talkie! Posted Image


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#11 of 47 Lord Dalek

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Posted June 23 2012 - 10:00 AM

I hear MH's next film will be talkie but be cast entirely with mimes.



#12 of 47 Richard Gallagher

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Posted June 23 2012 - 02:53 PM

Originally Posted by Lord Dalek 


I agree. The guy's filmography (one short and a pair of spy spoofs) is about as thin as a ritz cracker. The whole thing reeks of the usual Weinstein payola scam the AMPAS just cant get out from under.


I wasn't aware that a lengthy resume is a prerequisite for winning the Oscar. Apparently someone forgot to tell Mike Nichols, who won the Best Director Oscar for the second film he directed, and Bob Fosse, who also won the Best Director Oscar for his second film.


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#13 of 47 Jace_A

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Posted June 23 2012 - 03:48 PM

The film, and Hazanavicius, deserved those Oscars in my opinion. The Best Director isn't a lifetime achievement award, although it's been used for that purpose sometimes (Scorsese winning for a mediocre film, when he should have won for Raging Bull or Goodfellas, for example). Hazanavicius' resume is irrelevant.

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Posted June 23 2012 - 05:18 PM

Some online reviews mention some banding present? Did you notice this? Would it have also been present in the theatrical release?



#15 of 47 Colin Jacobson

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Posted June 24 2012 - 02:23 AM

Originally Posted by Jace_A 

The film, and Hazanavicius, deserved those Oscars in my opinion. The Best Director isn't a lifetime achievement award, although it's been used for that purpose sometimes (Scorsese winning for a mediocre film, when he should have won for Raging Bull or Goodfellas, for example). Hazanavicius' resume is irrelevant.


I disagree that "Artist" should've won BP - I think it's a mildly entertaining movie that got more praise than it deserved because of its gimmick - but I agree that a filmmaker's history doesn't matter.  If a director never picked up a camera prior to the winning film, that doesn't matter - a great film is a great film regardless of the filmmaker's background.


70 years ago, did people say "Citizen Kane" didn't deserve awards because it was Welles' first feature?  (Yeah, I know it didn't win BP - just using it as an example...)


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#16 of 47 Robert Crawford

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Posted June 24 2012 - 02:35 AM

Originally Posted by Jace_A 

The film, and Hazanavicius, deserved those Oscars in my opinion. The Best Director isn't a lifetime achievement award, although it's been used for that purpose sometimes (Scorsese winning for a mediocre film, when he should have won for Raging Bull or Goodfellas, for example). Hazanavicius' resume is irrelevant.


Not in my opinion!  I thought Hugo was a much better film and that Scorsese should've won the director's Oscar.

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#17 of 47 Robert Crawford

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Posted June 24 2012 - 02:36 AM

Originally Posted by Colin Jacobson 


I disagree that "Artist" should've won BP - I think it's a mildly entertaining movie that got more praise than it deserved because of its gimmick - but I agree that a filmmaker's history doesn't matter.  If a director never picked up a camera prior to the winning film, that doesn't matter - a great film is a great film regardless of the filmmaker's background.


70 years ago, did people say "Citizen Kane" didn't deserve awards because it was Welles' first feature?  (Yeah, I know it didn't win BP - just using it as an example...)


Right on!  If it wasn't a silent film, it wouldn't have won those Oscars.


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#18 of 47 TravisR

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Posted June 24 2012 - 03:01 AM

While I think the silent 'gimmick' is what gave The Artist the edge to win Best Picture, I don't think any of the other nominated movies got particularly shafted by losing to it.

#19 of 47 NY2LA

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Posted June 24 2012 - 04:58 AM

Wow, what an amazing amount of sour grapes over what has always been a subjective award. You could take a horse, put heavy shoes on it, block its ears and cover its eyes, and then when it wins a race you could blame it all on those "gimmicks" - or you could concede that it achieved its goal in spite of impairments the other horses didn't have. Dialogue, complex visual effects, color, widescreen, big name casting, etc, have all been called gimmicks at some point, and the other BP nominees took full advantage of most of them. The Artist not so much. The Artist conveyed a story that effectively engaged, moved and entertained audiences without, color, dialogue, big stars, widescreen, without the gimmicks of splashy sound, digital effects, 3D, a huge budget, saturation release or comic book subjects. The very idea of a black and white "silent" movie would instantly turn a lot of people off in this day and age. And yet The Artist succeeded critically and commercially, building good word mouth by an old fashioned gradual release pattern. How dare the Academy reward risky ingenuity and quality? What were they thinking?

#20 of 47 Colin Jacobson

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Posted June 24 2012 - 05:38 AM

Originally Posted by NY2LA 

Wow, what an amazing amount of sour grapes over what has always been a subjective award. You could take a horse, put heavy shoes on it, block its ears and cover its eyes, and then when it wins a race you could blame it all on those "gimmicks" - or you could concede that it achieved its goal in spite of impairments the other horses didn't have. Dialogue, complex visual effects, color, widescreen, big name casting, etc, have all been called gimmicks at some point, and the other BP nominees took full advantage of most of them. The Artist not so much. The Artist conveyed a story that effectively engaged, moved and entertained audiences without, color, dialogue, big stars, widescreen, without the gimmicks of splashy sound, digital effects, 3D, a huge budget, saturation release or comic book subjects. The very idea of a black and white "silent" movie would instantly turn a lot of people off in this day and age. And yet The Artist succeeded critically and commercially, building good word mouth by an old fashioned gradual release pattern. How dare the Academy reward risky ingenuity and quality? What were they thinking?


I'm not sure how emulating 85-year-old movies - with a story rehashed from other, better movies - equals "ingenuity".


And I don't see "sour grapes" here.  That implies that those of us who don't think "Artist" should've won are bitter about it for some reason and think something else got screwed.  That's not the case - while I preferred some of the other nominees, I wasn't upset they lost. I simply felt "Artist" wasn't worthy of Best Picture...


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