Fun Size Review: The Artist (2011)

Quite possibly one of the most controversial silent films, this little picture has been responsible for billions of pixels worth of rants. My opinion?

It’s pretty good. Not a masterpiece but it never claimed to be. It’s just a fun little tribute to the silent era and old Hollywood. You’re not a bad silent movie fan for loving it. You’re not a bad silent movie fan for hating it. Everybody, just relax (especially you, Kim Novak) and enjoy.

Or not.

I did.

The end.

How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Talkies take over. Our hero deals with it.

Read my full-length review here.

If it were a dessert it would be: S’mores Pumpkin Pie. An update of a classic but did the classic need updating? But s’mores, yum!

Availability: Released on DVD, Bluray, streaming, the whole shebang.

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25 Replies to “Fun Size Review: The Artist (2011)”

  1. I quite liked it. There were two scenes that really showed how well the director understands silent film acting. One is where the woman in love caresses the star’s coat, slipping her own arm into the sleeve so that she can imagine being embraced by him. The other is where the star is dancing with a sequence of woman, but the leading lady discombobulates him so thoroughly he is unable to complete a clean take.

    I agree partially with Kim Novak, and find that the “Vertigo” music cue is SO familiar and so thoroughly associated with the images it was created for that it makes a terrible distraction for that sequence of THE ARTIST. I love that piece of music, but that’s not the sole test to make an effective piece of film music.

    Other than that, I found it wonderful and have enjoyed watching it a number of times and introducing it to younger people.

    1. In my main review, I cover the controversy at length. I think it was a mistake to use the score but Novak’s reaction was completely bonkers and out of proportion. (She described part of a Hermann score for one film she appeared in as her “body of work” and took out a full-page ad.) I know older actors are often ignored but her foaming tantrum was completely uncalled for.

  2. As usual Fritzi, you nail down the essence of the matter – The Artist is a cute homage to the age of Silent Films.

    On a related note, did you see 2017’s Wonderstruck? While not quite a silent film, it employs deaf actors for two of the main roles, so it has a lot of silent action, plus part of the film is set in 1927, so there’s the deaf girl watching silent movies that also forms part of the film’s backdrop. It’s another sweet story that isn’t so directly a throw-back to the days of Silent Films, but it’s not far from always reminding the audience that Silent Films are our Roots.

  3. I really like this film and have never been able to get my head around the hate for it. The reaction by Kim Novak is baffling. My only complaint about the film is that the filmmakers didn’t feel confident enough to make an original Silent film that didn’t play as an homage to the Silent era. Also the story is like a mix of Singin’ In The Rain and A Star Is Born mixed together, and the main character is like a mix of Douglas Fairbanks and John Gilbert.

  4. Sorry, it looks cute, but I want the ‘real thing.’ The millions spent making a ‘tribute’ to silent films could be better spent donating to AFI, the George Eastman House, Internet Archive, and all the museums and other resources that are working with inadequate budgets to locate and preserve the precious remnants of actual silent-era output.

    1. Michel Hazanavicius contributed considerably to the restoration of Charlie Chaplin’s early work and I’ll wager a good part of that money was directly related to The Artist. This isn’t a zero sum game and the fact that the film raised awareness of the silent era and brought new fans to the fold must also be considered.

      P.S. Film funding doesn’t work that way. There aren’t two boxes marked Old Silent Movie Preservation and New Silent Movie Budgets with money that goes into one being unavailable for the other. It’s like saying that any money used to build a new house is money taken away from homeless shelters. If Hazanavicius had never made The Artist that doesn’t mean that $15 million budget would have been deposited at the George Eastman House’s doorstep. It would have been used to make another modern movie.

  5. it’s always a party when someone you forgot was alive has to use such explosive language just to seem relevant again!!

    but in any event i thought “the artist” was sweet and touching and i can’t understand who could glean anything else from it.

    can we just say for the thousandth time how douglas fairbanks was mentioned at the oscars for the first time in like 80 years????

      1. well that but also i think it was always this sort of “niche” aspect of film history. now all of a sudden people were talking about silent film in this authoritative way (just like how whenever anything happens everyone on social media is a lawyer and doctor and phd in everything all in one). honestly i felt a little uncomfortable seeing what felt like my friends being exploited like this.

        if “the artist” had been made ten years earlier i can promise that all this “controversy” (which doesn’t need to exist) would not be there.

  6. I found the portion of the film after the failure of the leading man’s self-funded silent, where he falls into a deep depression, to be too downbeat. I also thought it was a mistake to portray his silent film as a relic – he was shown to be filming on stages in artificial sets when the silent camera could go anywhere; his silent should have been a dazzling show of what the silent camera could really do, and then it’s failure would have been all the more galling. Those are minor quibbles I suppose – I didn’t love or despise the film, it falls somewhere between for me.

  7. I loved the film for its first half, but the second half wallowed in self-pity so much that it lost me. And as someone else on the Internet has pointed out, there is no way anyone would have set fire to (what was at the time) nitrate film unless they wanted a quick and pyromaniacal death.

  8. Unabashedly enjoyed The Artist. As was pointed out upthread, Fairbanks, Gilbert, and others were talked of at the Oscars as well as mentioned in print media and on tv for months. Have to laud this film for that alone. Also…Uggie! Bless his dear talented (and alas departed) little heart. Would like to think of him romping in the Doggie Beyond with silents canine greats Luke, Jean, Blair, et al.

  9. I watched it a few years ago and remember liking it, though I didn’t fall in love with it. One thing I remember thinking: It would have been a great effect to tint the film orange in the scene where the old silent film footage was being burned. I wish they would have considered the use of tinted footage.

  10. I have one gripe in that I think they missed a great opportunity by not doing a follow-up film. I walked out of the theater wanting a legitimate Peppy Miller movie. I still do.

  11. I accepted and enjoyed The Artist for what it was. A masterpiece equal to the best of late ’20s cinema, it wasn’t, particularly for any modern-day silent nerd who has watched enough of these things to be able to recognize the supporting actors (Nigel De Brulier, anyone?). That being said, The Artist is probably better than many of the standard-issue feature films that Hollywood used to grind out to meet the silent era schedule of a new movie in theatres each week. But if you want to experience a truly creative, modern use of the elements of silent and early sound films, I would recommend any of the disturbingly funny and strange movies of Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin. (By the way, I just discovered your website and I am quite enjoying it. Keep up the good work).

    1. Yes, I think a lot of The Artist’s issues can be put down to incredibly off-kilter expectations. As I say in the full-size review, I don’t see how anyone could have expected the team behind OSS 117 to come up with the next Sunrise or The Crowd but it’s cute and I enjoyed it.

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