A Cinematic Cheat Sheet for 'The Artist'

Decoding the references to film history in a movie in love with film history

theartist cheat sheet 615.jpg

The Weinstein Co.

The Artist continues to charm most everyone in its path. At just about every awards ceremony this winter, French writer-director Michel Hazanavicius's black-and-white silent film about showbiz's cycles of obsolescence and reinvention has taken home at least one prize. On Sunday, the perky comedy picked up three Golden Globes (including one for best musical/comedy), and it will certainly figure prominently among the Oscar nominees, to be announced next week.

The film mostly expresses its love for movies by channeling well-known silent-era tropes: the tendency toward types, cleverly choreographed visual gags, and emotional displays as big as the Hollywood sign. But, as many critics have noted, the film also contains a smattering of more specific cinematic references. And not just to crowd-pleasers of the 1920s: Hazanavicius also directly cites beloved sound pictures of Hollywood's so-called Golden Age.

Here are a few of The Artist's particular borrowings from—and riffs on—moments in American film history. Catch any others? Let us know.

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Benjamin Mercer has written on film for The Village Voice, The New York Sun, The L Magazine, and Reverse Shot. He is a copy editor at Bookforum. More

He has also copyedited for two New York dailies: The New York Sun and amNewYork.

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