The Artist (2011)

The Artist

‘The Artist’ is an audacious, jovial albeit predictable homage to the first stars of Hollywood.

It’s straightforward, predictable, and not entirely deserving of its Academy commendation, but ‘The Artist’ is ultimately a delightful piece of escapism. It’s a joy to watch, I became aware that I had a smile on my face throughout the first twenty minutes, which was thanks to a combination of the jovial soundtrack, ‘Uggie’ the talented Jack Russell, and also I think Dujardin’s rather infectious smile.

However, it’s slightly darker than you may have imagined. The film concerns George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent-movie star whose wellbeing is jeopardised upon the advent of the ‘talkies’. So, as you can imagine, the film is as much a drama as it is a romantic comedy, if not more.

It really is remarkable what the cast have achieved with this film. I’m sure many people would have their reservations about this silent film, but I’m certain they’d be engrossed from the start, completely indifferent that it’s missing a fundamental dimension. Of course, silent films aren’t completely silent, they’re scored, and ‘The Artist’ has a delightfully expressive soundtrack. Its energetic, upbeat tracks are my favourite; they have your torso gently swaying and your head bobbing jovially.

It’s ultimately a very nice little film with good performances from everyone, particularly from Dujardin. Though he is great in it, I feel his Oscar wasn’t fairly earned; his job was very different to the other contenders that year. However, if there was an Oscar for ‘Best Smile’, he would’ve won without a doubt.

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Django Unchained (2012)

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Tarantino delivers another provocative and hugely entertaining film.

I love the sense of occasion a Tarantino film has, he’s in the lucky position of being one of the most popular and controversial directors of the past twenty years. Some may find him self-indulgent, but the merits of his energetic, funny and flamboyant films are undeniable; it’s fantastic that he is able to make such edgy blockbusters.

‘Django’, which is effectively a ‘buddy film’, charts the relationship between German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave Schultz rescues. Together they endeavour to save Django’s wife from the notorious ‘Candie Land’, a vast plantation owned by the ruthless Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The film has a great ensemble cast. Jamie Foxx makes the most of his character, who for the most part is a ‘man-with-no-name’ figure. He accomplishes Tarantino’s goal of ‘giving Black American males a Western hero’. DiCaprio successfully depicts Candie as a pompous pseudo-intellectual and at times a nasty piece of work, however the extent to which he brushes off barbed comments from Django surprised me, there were moments where I wondered if  he was menacing or authoritative enough.  Based on the great ‘Killer Joe’ (2012), I wondered how Matthew McConaughey would have performed the role, he could have steeped it in menace, but I doubt he could have achieved the risible ignorance of DiCaprio.

Christoph Waltz again showcases his talent here, but his character in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ gave him more scope to perform his ‘charming but deadly’ persona. Samuel L. Jackson completely transforms into the character of Stephen, who is Candie’s geriatric butler and the ultimate uncle tom. Jackson’s performance is my favourite, he’s both a tragic and very nasty figure. Tarantino himself appears in the later stages of the film with an Australian accent that ranges from being incoherent to not very Australian at all – thankfully it’s strictly a cameo.

There are laughs all the way through ‘Django’, a notable example being when slave owner ‘Big Daddy'(Don Johnson) attempts to explain to a slave how she should treat the newly liberated and somewhat respected Django – it completely ridicules the nonsensical, pernicious madness of racism.

I also found myself disregarding any form of moral compass and laughing heartily at the more cartoonish displays of violence. There is one particular scene that is a veritable bloodbath, seldom in the annals of celluloid has there been a moment more deserving of the term!

Some have criticised the film’s length, however I had little trouble with its 165 minute running time. There were indeed sections of the film, chiefly before and during the ‘Candie Land’ period, which could have been trimmed perhaps, however I was perfectly content.

The majority won’t be disappointed, the film has all the earmarks of a Tarantino film – he is the ultimate fan boy auteur. I can’t wait to see it again.

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