I’ve been saying all along that I’d be a much more passionate Artist fan if it looked, moved and emoted like a real silent film, instead of offering a pastiche of one.
“The Artist, a likable spoof, [is] bland, sexless, and too simple,” New Yorker critic David Denby wrote a few days ago. “For all its genuine charm, it left me restless and dissatisfied, dreaming of those wilder and grander movies [of the silent era].
“Jean Dujardin, with a pencil mustache, looks a little like John Gilbert, but his cavorting star is meant to be a [Douglas] Fairbanks equivalent. A chesty, full-bodied man who moves quickly, Dujardin is good at buoyant peacocking, as when he shows off to an appreciative audience at the premiere of one of Valentin’s films. But most of what Dujardin does is obvious and broad. He smiles fatuously; he grimaces when things go wrong.
“The Artist is an amiably accomplished stunt that pats silent film on the head and then escorts it back into the archive. The silent movies we see in The Artist all look like trivial, japish romps. Certainly, there’s no art form on display whose disappearance anyone would mourn. Hazanavicius’s jokes are playful but minor, even a little fussy, and after a while I began to think that the knowing style congratulates the audience on getting the gags rather than giving it any kind of powerful experience. ”
“The Artist lacks the extraordinary atmosphere of the silent cinema, the long, sinuous tracking shots, the intimacy with shadow and darkness. Well, you say, so what? The movie is just a high-spirited spoof. Yes, but why set one’s ambitions so low? The movie’s winningness feels paper-thin, and, as Peter Rainer pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor, The Artist, with its bright, glossy appearance, looks more like a nineteen-forties Hollywood production than like a silent movie.”