Wednesday brings the release of “The Artist,” the most satisfying and unusual film of 2011. Michel Hazanaivicius’s black and white homage to silent films is hilarious and poignant. It features, I think, the potential Oscar nominees: Best Actor for Jean Du Jardin, Best Supporting Actress for Berenice Bejo, and Best Supporting Actor for Uggie the Dog.
A dog? Yes! I see no reason why Uggie cannot be nominated and win, frankly. His work on “The Artist” is superb. More audience members will exit theaters talking about him than about any other supporting actor this season. Plus, the director says he was easy to work with. “It’s all a matter of sausage,” says Hazanavicius. Certainly, Uggie could get Golden Globe and National Board of Review citings. And unlike Ricky Gervais, he won’t bite the hand that feeds him.
“The Artist” also has a 97% ranking on rottentomatoes.com. This is just about the highest rating of the year. It’s higher than either “The Social Network” or “The King’s Speech.” It’s also a movie built for publicity stunts. This week, Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughters hosted a screening in Hollywood. How long before the descendants of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton also show their approval? “The Artist” is full of riffs on silent films, recalling all the old masters. At the same time, Hazanavicius creates new iconic moments–and you’ll see them.
When we saw “The Artist” in Cannes last spring, everyone wanted to know who the main actors were–they are French and unknown to us. DuJardin is the star of a popular French TV comedy with his wife. Bejo is well known in movies and married to Hazanacius. All of them are studying English quickly, getting ready to meet Americans. They are a wordly, sexy, fun bunch. By the time they start picking up gold trophies, I think they will be well versed.
“The Artist.” I predict will become the must-see movie of this season very quickly. And then everyone can start guessing which movies it’s riffing on. (Hint: there’s a lot of “Citizen Kane.”)