DVDs & Blu-rays: The Artist and The Hedgehog

The Artist

stars Jean Dujardin, Penelope Ann Miller and John Goodman; Michel Hazanavicius writes, directs and co-edits.

Films at the turn of the 20th century were silent, that is, accompanied by plenty of live music but without spoken dialogue. The 2011 Academy Award winner for Best Picture The Artist, one of the best films at the turn of the 21st century, was also silent. Michel Hazanavicius's romantic comedy did something new and fresh by doing something very old, something considered has-been. The Artist skipped the dialogue and instead let the actors' expressions and actions tell the story. The effort earned five Oscars; along with the aforementioned Best Picture, it won Best Director, Best Actor, Best Musical Score and Best Costume Design.

The plotline was a tweeking of A Star Is Born. Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is an actor at the height of his fame. He meets Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), a young actress at the beginning of her career, and the two form a connection. As he sinks into obscurity, she rises to stardom. Dujardin is brilliant, and Miller is delightful. Hazanavicius keeps things moving while giving the audience enough time to enjoy lingering looks between Valentin and Doris.

Extras for the DVD/Blu-ray include a blooper reel, Q&A with the filmmakers and cast, and several featurettes including The Artist: The Making of an American Romance, one each on the locations, costumes, cinematography, production design and composer.

The Hedgehog

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stars Garance Le Guillermic, Josiane Balasko and Togo Igawa; Mona Achache writes and directs.

The Hedgehog is a prickly film by Mona Achache. It's the story of three people, 11-year-old Paloma (a wonderful Garance Le Guillermic), Renée, the widowed concierge of Paloma's apartment building (a delightfully deadpan Josiane Balasko), and new tenant Kakuro (Togo Igawa). Paloma lives her life spying on her family and planning her suicide. Renée meets the expectations of her clients -- she's gruff and efficient. When Kakuro moves in, things change. He sees beyond Renée's hardened exterior and his affection slowly begins to change her. (She gets a haircut, for example. A small thing, but one that changes her mood as well as her appearance.) Paloma is witness to it all and as she becomes involved in their lives, her thoughts of suicide no longer dominate her daily existence.

In French with English subtitles.


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