The Artist comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p black and white video rendition in the movie’s original theatrical ‘Academy’ aspect ratio of 1.37:1 fullscreen. Detail is very good throughout and despite the obvious attempt at offering up a ‘classic’ look reminiscent of the times, there’s no overwhelming softness, and no digital defects and edge enhancement. DNR isn’t unruly, but filtering is evident, and is perhaps the only thing that some people might take issue with – although I would argue that what we see is an accurate reflection of what the filmmakers intended in terms of throwback look. Clarity is good, allowing for impressive fine object detail and pleasing broader shots, even within the confines of the less wide Academy ratio. Although the film is presented in black and white, it came from a colour-shot source, and the various shades of monochrome greyscale are brilliant, with striking whites and deep, dark and rich blacks that allow for fantastic shadowing. Frequently impressive, this presentation just misses reference quality more because of the throwback style of the piece than anything inherent to the video itself, and is still a very good looking offering indeed.
The black and white, fullscreen style of the piece – coupled with the no-dialogue silent nature – may well be a throwback to the period era, but the video certainly looks impressive, and the audio is almost as good. The far-from old-age DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works wonders to enhance the piece, making up for the near-total lack of dialogue and effects with a rousing score which both touches and exhilarates. The words that are spoken come across clearly and coherently from across the frontal array, but what the brief effects sequence is even more impressive, showcasing in just a few sounds some excellent directionality, sound design, and surround precision. Of course the score is easily the best presented element, dipping and diving, rising and soaring with the mood of the piece and only helping – in the absence of words – to communicate the story through the sentiment of the music. Understandably limited by the very nature of the source material, this is still a stellar mix which may sound like a soundtrack from the 30s but is most definitely modern-age High Definition in terms of presentation.
Although not packed with features, there are a few nice Featurette-dominated extras, as well as one unmissable Q & A offering, which should likely keep the fans content.
The Artist: The Making Of An American Romance is a 22-minute Featurette which looks behind the scenes at the making of the movie, providing interview snippets with the main cast and crew, and plenty of background footage of the movie being shot, all interspersed with final film footage. It’s a decent overview which doesn’t ever feel too fluffy.
Hollywood As A Character: The Locations of The Artist offers a 5-minute accompanying Featurette looking specifically at the well-chosen locations which played an integral part in setting the period scene for the movie.
The Artisans Behind The Artist offers up four separate mini-Featurettes which each last 3-4 minutes and offer insight into Production Design, Cinematography, Costumes, and Music, respectively, with the relevant interview clips and behind the scenes footage peppered through each of them.
Q & A With The Filmmakers And Cast is arguably the highlight of the disc, not making up for the lack of Commentary, but still providing a substantial 45-minute roundtable discussion with Writer/Director Michael Hazanvicius and actors Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and Missi Pyle. Well worth checking out.
Blooper Reel rounds off the disc.
Don’t let the Award wins either put you off, or determine your expectations; The Artist is not destined to be an all-time classic, but it’s still a warm and feel-good drama which, if given half a chance, will likely win you over. Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius and French lead stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo sweep you off your feet with their visually-driven, orchestrally-enhanced trip down a long-forgotten road to a past time filled with romance and elegance, bravado and energy; where all of those elements used to spill out onto the screen before your eyes. Likely unique in its adventurous stylisation, and with a surprisingly subtle multi-layered story behind it, there’s plenty to both admire and enjoy in this throwback silent movie.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get very good video and audio, as well as a nice selection of extras to round off the disc. For those who love the film – and are capable of playing B-locked discs, this is a must-have purchase, particularly when we have to wait another few weeks for the US counterpart. For those interested, I’d be surprised if it made for a disappointing purchase, but it might be worth renting first – just in case – to see if it wins you over.
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