The Artist, a black and white silent French film about a mega-film star of the 1920s golden age of Hollywood and his decline with the advent of talkies, is an extraordinary movie sure to make you embrace the art and love of movie making more than anything else ever before released in recent memory.
Recently nominated for ten Academy Awards and embraced by audiences around the world since its prize-winning debut at the Cannes Film Festival last May, this most unlikely of feel-good movies is unequivocally one of the best films of 2011.
The plot revealed
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent screen movie god, a nice mix of Douglas Fairbanks and Gene Kelly (obviously the latter is not a silent star), at the top of his field. After a successful film premiere, he meets Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a newcomer to Hollywood who soon begins her climb to stardom that coincides with the advent of talking pictures. Valentin refuses to transition and while his star inevitably declines, Miller’s rises to the heights of Greta Garbo.
A visionary twist on an old favorite
While not exactly the most original plot (which could accurately be described as A Star is Born meets Singin’ in the Rain), The Artist mines its charm from the exceptional performances of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo and the way director Michel Hazanavicius uses old technology and new to playfully interact with an audience who most likely have never viewed a silent film before. The technical team of the film, particularly those working in the sound, cinematography, and especially the music department, deserve standing ovations for their brilliant contributions to the film. However, many viewers will most remember Uggie, a Jack Russell terrier who delivers a more realistically human performance than most actors working today, as Valentin’s pet, regular sidekick, and friend.
The Artist is a wonderfully international creation combining its own individual artists from France, England and the United States, and it’s also the most sincere love letter to classic Hollywood and the golden era of cinema that is, sadly, mostly forgotten by today’s filmgoers.